The season is just about to wrap up it's second full week and if the first two weeks are any indication for the rest of the season, buckle up and hold on because it's going to be an exciting ride. Teams coming out of nowhere to shine and many favorites starting at a tortoise pace. Many games have been played, sometimes 80 games per night statewide and the Iceman feel that props need to be given to those 160 men and women who get in front of all of us, take are abuse, absorb our frustrations, and listen to our cursing (usually towards them). Yes, you guessed it. The officials!
Call them what you want, officials, referees, refs, (insert your expletive here),.....whatever. They still are a major part of our sporting events and I feel it's time we look at what it takes to be an official in the world of high school athletics.
Most officials start at the lower levels of high school and as you improve your skills and gain confidence you'll begin to ascend the ladder and work higher level high school games. The higher the level of competition, the higher the speed factor of the athletes. The quicker the athletes means the faster the pace of the game, therefore, officials need to be in relatively good physical condition. It may not look like much of a workout, but believe me, it's not easy. I don't think you'll ever get whistled for a "T" by the likes of Dom Deluise of John Madden.
Officials also must be intellectually fit. The amount of time they have committed to become a qualified and competent official is mind boggling. Ok, maybe it's not comparable to that of a MD or CPA, but reading a rulebook isn't all it takes. Understanding the rules and how to apply them fairly is crucial and a good official truly understands the nuances of the game. While they may never have played the game competitively themselves, they all do have a feel for the flow and spirit of the game. All officials also need to attend association meetings and training clinics to always keep up with rules changes and changes in the game.
What may be the most important characteristic of a good official is his/her emotional preparation. The abuse and verbal criticism these individuals endure night in and night out would drive most of us off the edge. But these men and women handle it like it's another day at the office. Sports officials are placed into highly charged situations and how they stay so calm under pressure surely is commendable. I don't think many of us would like to be responsible for calling that foul with .02 seconds on the clock, game tied, and in the oppositions gym. Not me.
So please remember that officials are there to bring control to chaos, promote safe and fair play, and encourage good sportsmanship. But if any officials are out there reading this, props to you, but remember this from the Iceman: " You're in charge, but it's the players who the fans have come to watch, not you."