Ocala sports official continues family legacy

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Posted January 28, 2022 | By Marian Rizzo

Terri Mayhew Adams didn’t just walk in her father’s footsteps; she ran, jumped and played in them.

Terri Mayhew Adams, center, sits with her dad Larry Mayhew, left, and Chris Adams, right, who suits up as the Forest High School mascot, Willie the Wildcat. [Picture supplied]

On any given Saturday during the youth football season, Terri Mayhew Adams can be seen waving a flag, making hand signals and blowing a whistle at Jervey Gannt Park. Like her father, Larry Mayhew, had done for 59 years, she is a certified official with the Mid Florida Officials Association (MFOA).

The MFOA is a not-for-profit organization that cooperates with the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Florida High School Athletic Association and area schools to provide competent, standardized officiating in the sports of football, basketball for boys and girls, baseball, softball and flag football.

Adams said her father was on the board that founded the Marion County Youth Football League (MCYFL), which is one of her favorite programs.

“I love that league,” Adams said. “They’re in second- to eighth-grade. They’re moldable. The kids just have so much potential, and you can take them in the right direction, and that’s the chance to do that. I teach them teamwork, how to play well with others, that there’s sacrifice involved and that you don’t always get to be the starter.”

For 15 years Adams has been wearing the traditional white hat designating the one who oversees the officiating crew, but this is the first year she’s reached primary status, which means she can choose her own crew. Such an upgrade doesn’t come easy, said Adams, “especially for a woman.”

“It’s kind of an unspoken in a man’s world,” she said. “When I registered in 1982, I believe I was the third female in the state of Florida in football officiating. I had a lot of help from my dad though, because he was booking commissioner back then. The first time I showed up for a meeting, one of the other officials asked me why I wasn’t home in the kitchen cooking for my husband. I can’t repeat to you what I said back to him,” she added, chuckling, “but I can still see his face.”

Fred Goin, a fellow official with the MFOA, said Adams sets a good example of how to keep going in the face of adversity.

“She, being a female, is unfairly scrutinized,” Goin noted. “You don’t have very many women officials, especially in football. Some work on the clock, but as far as going on the field I’m pretty sure she’s one of the only ones. She’s very good in her knowledge of the rules and her ability to apply them. She’s an educator, so I think that helps her.”

Goin also spoke fondly of Mayhew, who officiated at his last game at the age of 79. He passed away seven years later.

“He wore the white hat and the rest of us were his crew,” Goin said. “He was one of our oldest standing members. He worked in almost any capacity you could imagine. He was instrumental in bringing in younger guys over the years and training them to be good officials. I think he had a strong influence on Terri as he did on others, anyone he came in contact with. He had high morals and was very wise and very good.”

Adams agreed that her father was the main influence in her sports life. From the time she was a toddler, she was watching college sports on TV with her dad sitting beside her. They played slow-pitch ball in the backyard and, when she got into middle school, she went out for intramural sports, always with her dad cheering her on.

“As far back as I can remember, I went to basketball and football games with my dad,” Adams recalled. “Just hanging out with him, we had a lot of good times together. I grew up near South Ocala Elementary School and we used to go over to the basketball courts and knock around playing basketball and football over there. That was back when kids went outside and played.”

Adams graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and hired on with the Marion County School System. By that time her father had started a couple of businesses here, first a pest control service in 1970 and, in 1973, through a partnership with a friend, Ocala’s first drive-thru restaurant, the Hungry Bear Drive-In, which is still in operation but is now owned by someone else. Still, he maintained a lifelong interest in sports.

“He played basketball and football in high school, then some college,” Adams said. “He was a very good athlete, had played some semi-pro football right out of high school. When he was in his 40s, he was asked to go to the NFL, but they found out he was 10 years older than they thought he was. He moved to Florida to try to walk on and play for the University of Florida. It didn’t work out so he paid a guy $20 to borrow his black robe so he could walk down with me.”

A librarian at Liberty Middle School, Adams, 60, has been officiating at youth sports events for 40 years. She said she is grateful for the legacy her father passed down to her.

“He was a wonderful Christian man,” she said. “What he taught me was to be like Christ. If you had an attitude of positivity on the field, you get that back usually from the coaches and players. You get back what you give.”

Sally Mayhew, Adams’ mother, died in August 2019. Larry Mayhew passed away four months later.

“Officially of natural causes, but I would say of a broken heart,” Adams said. “They were high school sweethearts and were married for 64 years.”

Mayhew’s sports legacy also trickled down to his son, Larry, who got involved in motorsports, and also to Todd and Terri Adams’ two sons, William, who works in the athletic department at Syracuse University, and Christopher, who is intramural sports director at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

What advice does Adams have for other parents?

“Your kids have too much free time,” she said. “You’ve got to get them into sports. These kids today drive me nuts with their phones. Get the kids to put down their phones and go outside and play.”

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