Even after a knee injury ended her days of being an athlete, Terry Porter never had any intention of walking away from sports.
She loved being part of the action and she loved being part of the game too much to not be involved.
Porter is in her 47th season of officiating high school volleyball. She’s a member of the Colorado Volleyball Officials Association (CVOA) Hall of Fame. She served as CVOA president for four years, vice president for six, and state rule interpreter for a dozen. She’s now serving as the director of Area 5 — the Grand Valley — for the second time, overseeing the officiating in her hometown.
After graduating from Grand Junction High School, Porter enrolled at what was then known as Mesa State College as a two-sport athlete. One day in her freshman fall of 1974, she was leaving a class when she noticed a flier seeking high school volleyball officials.
“I saw it and I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds interesting!’ and I pursued it,” Porter said. “That’s why I have done it for all these years, and not be too old to keep doing it, even though I am pretty senior.”
Porter played softball and basketball at Mesa before a knee injury ended her playing days. She transferred to the University of Northern Colorado to complete her studies. Seemingly as soon as she left, Mesa’s volleyball program was up and running.
That would essentially serve as the only time any volleyball-related evolution occurred without Porter’s presence. Porter’s first season of officiating in 1974 was also the first year that the sport was sanctioned in the Centennial State.
The sport was growing on its own around that time, and in the early days of Title IX, it was mandatory for schools to create more sports programs for girls and women.
Fortunately for Porter and her knee, the sport has always required less hectic movements from its officiating crews than other sports.
“I did some basketball, I did some softball as far as officiating, but the bad knee kind of limited me to doing something a little more sedentary, which volleyball is,” Porter said. “You don’t have to run the bases or the court. That’s one of the reasons why I stuck with volleyball as opposed to the other sports that I started out with.”
However, volleyball officials didn’t always have the luxury of having an elevated spot above the net.
Originally, they were in a far more inconvenient — and uncomfortable — position, one that had to change as the level of competitiveness in the sport spiked.
“The game has changed to keep up with the athleticism of the players. The rule changes have reflected those abilities,” Porter said.
“For example, when we started out.... we actually crouched down under the net to look up to see if anybody had contacted the net. You spent most of the match doing a squat and looking up at the net if you were the referee that was on the floor.
“Obviously, once they became more competitive, they started having more approaches, much more aggression, so we obviously had to move out.”
She was also there when the state changed its volleyball net poles across all schools because the poles had guide-wires holding them to the floor and were occasionally causing injuries.
That led to the implementation of the free-standing poles used to this day.
Perhaps the most stark change over time for Porter has been the evolution of coaching strategies and the creative ways coaches have gone about bending the rules of their times or rotating their talents.
It’s forced volleyball officials to adapt.
“Everyone used to play in a very basic alignment, where now, you’ve got to be on your toes to know if the players are coming out of the back row, how much can they do in the front row,” Porter said. “The game has changed an awful lot in many different ways to adapt to being more competitive.”