How long have you been officiating? Nov of 2019 marked my 30th year of PIAA basketball officiating and I think I have 22 years as PIAA softball umpire. Not exactly sure on softball, but that should be close.
I know a lot of officials tend to be former athletes wh olike to stay involved in sports. Did you play sports growing up? If so what sports? I played football, basketball and baseball in high school. In high school I was only 5’10” and 135lbs when I graduated so I had to be smarter as an athlete ( I like to think anyways) so I learned the game more than if I could have just been more athletic than the rest of people I played against. So with that knowledge it tended to help out with officiating. You should know what’s going to happen and why it’s going to happen as an official.
How much fun is it to stay around the sports and continue to be able to interact with the coaches and athletes? I never reffed football as I coached Jr High at Wyalusing for 25 years or so, and that was my fall sport to partake in Basketball reffing has been done at the high school level and I used to play in the Wyalusing Adult basketball league on Sunday afternoons. I would play one game and officiate 2 others. I did that until the league closed a few years ago. I got into softball due to the lack of umpires at the time at the request of Raul Azpiazu, the AD at Wyalusing at the time. Softball was something I played over the summer for many years in multiple adult leagues around the area and I ended up umping a lot before or after I played. Officiating has been a lot of fun over the years as some of my best friends are officials and we get to work together and socialize on way to games, at meetings etc. It’s been a little bit different the last 5-6 years as I’ve had my 2 nephews playing ball and have went to more games as a fan than as a ref than the past. I’m asked a lot of times during the game by fans, “was that a foul.. was that a violation? etc.” and a lot of times they don’t like my answer since they are biased for their team and I give my opinion as a ref. Both nephews probably didn’t like it as much when I reffed their games as a I tended to call fouls and violations on them a little harder.
How tough is it finding officials these days? It’s real tough to find officials these days as nobody wants to referee a game when they know that they are going to be yelled at constantly. There are too many people in the stands, on the sidelines and on the court that think it’s the NBA where you can say and do what you want and get away with it. If we went into these peoples place of work and said the things that they say, and act the way that they do, we would have the police called on us and arrested for harassment and assault. Two years ago we had a fan race into the lobby and harass some fellow officials because they didn’t like the call at the end of a game. They then waited in the parking lot to continue to yell at one of the officials.. I often ask some of the players that have graduated, “Why don’t you ref?”, and they typically respond with “I don’t want to get yelled at all the time..” And the majority of the time fans are yelling about “fouls” or “violations” that aren’t even in the rule book.. for instance.. Over the back- Not a foul in the rule book.. you can reach over someone, you just cant make contact with them... Reaching... players can reach all day, they just can’t make contact when they reach.. If that was the case then we would have to call a foul when someone went to take a shot and you swung and missed to block the shot..
And our officials are getting older, which leads to another problem in that they tend to get injured more. In our basketball chapter we have about 35 refs and there are only about 10 that are younger than me at 49.. So the more refs that are injured makes the rest of us have to pick up the slack. There was a stretch of 16 days that I reffed 14 nights and there were 3 of those nights where I had to do JV/Var both. And the 2 nights that I didn’t ref were Sundays that we had a meeting anyways.
With the shortage of officials, what does that mean in terms of travel, and schedules for you and other officials? Travel for me is fairly extensive in that I live at the farthest point in the county from the majority of the league. So for me to ref in Canton/Troy it’s 40-45 miles and when I go to Mansfield/Wellsboro it’s 60-75 miles. Plus I go to Heartland/Mid Penn league, which ironically is closer to me than the NTL. I’ll go to Sullivan County, Benton, Hughesville Muncy etc and it can be closer than my home league. When we ref in playoffs it’s nothing to go 1 1/2 hours away. Shikellamy field house is used a lot and have had to go there a lot. Have reffed in Pottsville at Martz Hall for state playoffs and went to PSU for softball state championships to umpire.
What’s one of the most rewarding things about officiating? One of the most rewarding thing about my officiating is having people come up to me and say that they like to see me come into the gym/onto the field, as they know that I’m a fair ref and they will get a fairly called game.
What’s one of the toughest things about officiating? Toughest thing about officiating is staying sharp after work so many games in a row. Mental and physical fatigue starts to set in after so many games. Most of us have full time jobs and we leave right from work to go to games to ref. By the time we get done reffing a basketball game it’s 9pm when you get off the court. Then you have to still grab supper and get home by 10pm if you’re lucky. And now that I have a 5 yr old at home, there are days that I don’t even get to see her as I may leave for work before she’s awake and she’s in bed by the time I get home.
I really wish more ex-players would get into officiating as we need young blood if high school sports want to continue. It’s a great way for them to make some extra money in college, over breaks etc. We are making about $65/game for jv basketball and they start at 6 and done by 7:15. What other job are they going to get paid that type of money to get some exercise, watch some good games and get paid for it?? They will have to put in a 8 hour shift at minimum wage job to earn the same money. Then if they like officiating, they can keep it up long after college is done.