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MPSSAA Title IX Trailblazer Brenda Gelston and BBOWS


Moment of Magnitude

Baltimore Board of Officials for Women’s Sports (BBOWS)

Brenda Bradley Gelston

A Moment of Magnitude in Maryland female sports can be traced back to the formation of the Baltimore Board of Women’s Officials (BBOWS).  BBOWS is noted to be in existence as early as 1942-43, when listed in a letter by previous chairman Eleanor L. Wright that the officials board had nine nationally rated officials for all of Maryland during that academic year.


BBOWS became the backbone of women’s sports in Maryland, supporting the Maryland State Committee of the Division of Girls and Women’s Sports in the growth of female opportunities well before the passage of Title IX.  BBOWS consisted of mostly female state educators and developed an educational model of rules interpretation clinics, testing, and questionnaires that are still used today by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA).  


As further opportunities grew for female sports, a requirement to obtain the new physical education degree at Towson State was to take an umpiring class. Little did BBOWS and Maryland know that this would lead to trailblazer Brenda Gelston’s driving passion of a respected organization for girls’ and women’s officials to serve female athletes.


Brenda was the driving force to stimulate the growth of BBOWS and bring it to its present-day position.  In 1970 the Board was the oldest organization in the greater Baltimore area concerned with the procurement and training of officials for girl’s high school sports.  In 1976, it added its first male officials and changed its name to the Baltimore Board of Officials for Women’s Sports.     

Brenda and her successors, including current Executive Director Fran Trumbo, inspire Maryland athletes through the BBOWS philosophy as a service organization providing the most desirable sports officiating services for girl’s and women’s sports.  The Board recruits, trains, and provides continuing education for people interested in becoming an official.


The members of BBOWS strive to provide the leadership appropriate in terms of ethical conduct and consistent with the highest level of performance and achievement of the athletes involved.


Brenda Gelston retired on 2006 and was recognized with numerous awards and responsibilities throughout the years, including a Distinguished Service Award from the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association in 2006. BBOWS gives out the “Brenda Gelston Service Award” each year to one of its members for their dedication.  Ms. Gelston passed away in 2021.  


BBOWS – Baltimore Board of Officials for Women’s Sports

Listed below is the history of BBOWS.


Pre 1970: The Baltimore Board of Women’s Officials was noted ina  letter on January 22, 1956 by first year chairman Eleanor L. Wright, as being in existence since at least 1942-42.  In her letter, she references, “For the 1942-1943 season, there were nine nationally rated officials for all of Maryland.  1949-1950 saw seventeen, 1951-1952 listed two boards but the twenty on listed for the Baltimore covered all but the Frederick area.”  The Board serviced both high school and college female sports.  The letter discusses the limited number of officials and the contracting of games right after a teacher finishes school to officiate a high school game, and then go officiate a collegiate game that same night.  


The Board by 1970 is the oldest organization in the greater Baltimore area concerned with the procurement and training of officials. Through the years before an assigner was established in 1971, such people as Joanne Murray (long-time AD at Roland Park Country School), Jo Fiske (Goucher College), Anne McCloskey (Maryvale and then Loyola), and Flo Bell among others, served as Chair.  The Board is part of DGWS (Div of G&W Sports) which is a Division of AAHPER – American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.


1970:  Eva Scott, AD, and Breezy Bishop at Western HS and Joni Scholwin at Northern HS continue asking how to get officials. Most schools get their own officials through coaches and AD’s on a first-come, first-served basis.  Brenda Gelston starts helping AD’s to get officials for their games.


1971:  Baltimore Board of Officials takes on Brenda Gelston as a scheduling coordinator for VB, BB and SB.  The Board’s first handbook is printed.  The Baltimore Board of Women’s Sports wouldn’t exist without the vision of Brenda Gelston, who led the organization for 36 years retiring in 2006.  She was one of the driving forces who helped stimulate the growth of the Board and bring it to its present-day position.


1972-73:  Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Independent and Parochial schools come on board with having Brenda Gelston assigning their officials.


1974-75:  Advisory board established and meets three times annually and by 1979 includes a Junior College Rep (Carol Eustis), a Div. III Rep (Carol Fritz), and a Div. I Rep (Kathy Zerrlaut).  Mildred Murray represents Baltimore County.  The Board establishes policies and sets fees. Mildred Murray is instrumental in helping equalize fees for men’s and women’s sports officials.


Other important policies the Advisory Board developed included:

·        The need to meet standards.

·        Training and testing.

·        Officials had to go where assigned. They couldn’t pick and choose.

·        All athletes, in all areas, were to have quality officials.

·        Everyone needs to contribute in order for goals to be reached.

The Advisory Board continued until 1994.


1975-76:  Field Hockey and Lacrosse included in the Commissioner’s duties.


1976:  First male officials added.  Board changes name from Baltimore Board of Women’s Officials to Baltimore Board of Officials for Women’s Sports.


1979:  Commissioner of Maryland Intercollegiate Board of Officials (MIOWS) added to Brenda’s duties.


1980: Executive Committee formulated. Barb Day, Jan Welsh, Kathy Zerrlaut oversee Board business as Chairs through most of the 80’s.


1988:  Kathy Campbell becomes Board Chair, starting her long-standing term up to President of BBOWS.


1990:  First meeting of the College Council for Women’s Athletics.


1991:  Board re-organizes its structure, Brenda assumes role as Executive Director. Assigning begins to be picked up by appointed assignors through BBOWS.  First blue Handbook is assembled and distributed.


1993:  Annual meetings are started.  The first one was at what is now the Notre Dame University of Maryland. Over the years it was held at various locations including Essex CC, St. Timothy’s School, The Hilton, Loch Raven HS, Days Inn, Oregon Ridge, and Liberty Christian School.


2006:  Brenda Gelston retires as Executive Director.  Barbara Moore takes over as Executive Director.


2008:  Nan Hambrose takes over from Barbara Moore as Executive Director.


2010:  Fran Trumbo assumes the role of Executive Director. Under Fran’s leadership, the Board increases its training and rating opportunities, updates the Handbook, removes certain annual fees, and increases membership in all sports.

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