Many Opportunities Available For PIAA Sports Officials
As summer begins to turn to fall and attention focuses on schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, athletes and coaches from around Pennsylvania are gearing for another scholastic sports season. In Pennsylvania, some 23 sports comprise the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). While thousands of athletes and coaches begin their quests for state titles and the great experiences of competing with fellow students, another 14,000 people are getting ready to ensure rules are followed for the benefit of all competitors — these are our officials. In District 2, nearly 1,000 men and women officiate high school sports for the 42 high schools that comprise our district. Earlier this month, hundreds of officials from around Pennsylvania gathered in Harrisburg for PIAA’s 24th annual Officials’ Convention, where discussions on officiating rules, mechanics, philosophies and integration of officials groups from throughout the state occurred. Much discussion also centered on recruitment of new people to become officials in our various sports. In my 35 years as an official, never has there been a better time to join the ranks of officiating. Expanded playoff categories and increases in up-and-coming sports have yielded plentiful opportunities for those interested in athletics to get involved by officiating in these contests. In our district we have dozens of sports chapters that meet weekly during each season to discuss rules, view videos and find better ways to improve on our avocation as officials. Rules interpreters from throughout these chapters do fantastic jobs in providing education each week to our members — and even find opportunities to conduct joint meetings where we bring officials from all over the district together to advance our thinking in bigger group settings. The work and time that our officials devote rivals that of our coaches and athletes and we are proud to be partners with everyone on the great happening of high school athletics. For some, it’s a part-time job; for others a way to stay close to the game; and for others it’s both. No matter the reason, sports officiating is a great avocation and the relationships, memories and friendships developed are vitally important and helpful both on and off the field. Just ask an official or his/her family who has experienced a tough time or personal tragedy and I am sure they’ll explain that when the chips were down the brotherhood and sisterhood of officiating — and coaches, too — was right there to lend support. It happens all the time and the stories of these connections are endless. As the male officials’ representative in District 2, one of my most important interests is the identification, recruitment and testing of prospective new officials. My colleague Maureen Williams, the female officials’ representative in our region, and our entire District 2 Committee, share in this commitment. PIAA makes testing convenient in this age of technology by providing the examination in an online format. Our local officials do their parts by offering mentorship, advice and practical experience to help get newly certified people up and running as fledgling officials. We all have a stake in the advancement of this recruitment initiative and we take it very seriously. In an age where video replay review and high quality still photography are now immersed into our games, there’s plenty of room for those with positive human traits such as being a great communicator, being a people-person and being a voice of reason when times get a little tough to become involved in officiating. I invite those interested to contact me or Maureen or the PIAA (piaa.org) to begin experiencing the many great happenings that sports have to offer — through the eyes of an official. WILLIAM J. SCHOEN is PIAA District 2 Male Officials’ Representative.