By Steve Robinson | June 29, 2018 - 10:26 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

This column usually runs from just after the Normal CornBelters season ends at the start of September until the last high school spring sports team we cover has been eliminated from State competition in June. But this past school year, it has stretched into July, having started before Labor Day covering Unit 5 preparing for busing to be revamped. This last column of the school year here gives me a chance to talk about something Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association, both based in Bloomington, would like to put out to folks who have an interest in doing something for the betterment of kids active in sports and a serious belief in how sports help kids: Becoming a referee.

If you’re a person who has been one before but haven’t in a while, IHSA has an online application process, explained Sam Knox, assistant executive director for baseball at IHSA. Knox said that regardless of the sport, “Certainly, we encourage people interested to sign up sooner rather than later so they can study rules and be comfortable with things in order to go out and work a sport.”

IHSA has rules tests and videos that those wishing to become officials can take and observe if they are serious about wanting to join a corps of officials, Knox said. Veteran officials recently signed their renewal forms in May and June, he added. In addition to a written test and video exam, referees are required to take a test concerning concussion symptoms and signs.

“It’s not difficult to become an official,” Knox said. “The difficulty actually comes with working the games.” But, he quickly added being an official “can be a lot of fun if it’s done the right way and it’s a great way to stay connected with high school sports.”

“On any given night in the Bloomington-Normal and McLean County area, the need for officials is great,” explained Steve Endsley, executive director of IESA. Endsley said boys’ and girls’ games of varying sports involving 5th through 8th graders, are needing officials.

“Oftentimes, there are more games scheduled than there are officials available,” Endsley pointed out. He said that often results in schools “having to find creative ways to schedule and/or perhaps not schedule as many games because of a shortage of officials.”

IESA purposely schedules girls’ basketball and volleyball seasons opposite from when IHSA holds them because that way, they can be assured to have officials on hand to oversee those games, Endsley explained. IESA has girls’ basketball in the fall and girls’ volleyball season in the winter.

“One of the reasons we do that for girls’ athletics is because of officials’ availability,” Endsley explained. He said if IESA had its girls’ volleyball schedule on parallel with IHSA’s in late summer and fall, “there would not be enough officials to run all the junior high contests and all of the high school contests.”

IHSA does all the licensing of officials for both itself and IESA, Endsley explained. Once a person becomes an official, they are considered independent contractors, free to work games at any level from a school that will hire them, Endsley said. He added IESA is required to use licensed officials.

Endsley said nationwide, not just in Illinois, there is a shortage of people who officiate, regardless of the sport. “We need more officials,” he said.

But just as needed, at both junior high and high school level, Endsley said, “are fans who will watch the games and cheer for their team and refrain from wanting to officiate the contest from the stands.” He said being harassed by fans is driving people away from the business of officiating. He added those who officiate do it for a love of the game.

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