By Sara Tischauser
High school sports officials spend many afternoons and nights officiating high school games so students can continue to compete in sports across the area.
Tim Joly, Seymour, has been officiating high school volleyball, basketball, softball, college softball and USA/ASA softball for 40 years and has officiated many games in the Seymour area. Todd Stiede, Pulaski, started officiating in 1988 and in 1991 started officiating varsity football fulltime and also officiates youth basketball part time.
Officials each have their own reason to become involved in officiating.
“To stay involved with sports after high school and to earn a little money while I was going to college,” Joly said were reasons he started officiating. “I stayed with officiating because I really enjoyed what I was doing and met a lot of really good people doing it.”
Stiede had multiple reasons as to why he started officiating and continues to officiate.
“It [officiating] is a way to stay in the game after you are too old to play it,” Stiede said. ‘“Number two is I’m an educator and a good official is a good teacher. Number three is to give back to the sport that I played as a youth and make sure it continues.”
Both officials agreed there are rewards with officiating.
“The most rewarding part is the camaraderie you have with your crew and to be able to work as a team and act as one unit and to rely on someone knowing that somebody else out there has your back,” Stiede said. “Second of all enjoying the sport and helping young people become better in sports. If you want to have sports you have to have people volunteer their time and spend their time officiating so the sports can continue.”
Stiede said he is fortunate to work with great officials.
“I have four wonderful guys to officiate with,” Stiede said.
Stiede said him and the other officials on his crew work together and take pride in what they are doing. That he said is a very rewarding part of being an official.
While officiating can be rewarding it can come with challenges as well. Joly said dealing with disrespectful players, coaches and fans can be one of the biggest challenges. Stiede said that one of the great challenges is properly officiating the game.
“I think the most challenging part is in making sure you manage the game properly,” Stiede said. “That you take responsibility for what happens in the game.”
At times, Stiede said the challenge can be in handling those who disagree with a call.
“If there are situations in the game involving a player or a coach or a bad call you go through and manage that without losing control of the entire situation,” Stiede said.
He said it is best to not let one situation or bad call ruin the entire game. Stiede said they need to focus on what’s good and move on.
Joly said at times people may disagree with a call but there really is not a good way for the person to raise those concerns.
“It does absolutely no good for them to voice their concerns on a call,” Joly said. “We all make mistakes and just because they think something was not called the way they thought does not make it wrong. On a bang, bang call you are going to only please half the people. Just think how they would feel if somebody was screaming things at their son/daughter when they made a mistake. I bet they would not sit idle. So why do they feel they have the right to do it to an official. Cheer positively and cheer for your team. Remember sportsmanship is a great thing.”
However, when a disagreement does arise from a call, Stiede said it is important for the official to stay calm.
“As an official when a parent, player or coach gets upset about a situation you have to have a cool head,” Stiede said. “It’s a situation where you have an incident and you have a lot of emotion. Everyone is filled with emotion. You need to be a calming factor in that situation.
“You have to understand that people are going to be emotional, but it’s just that one moment and you are going to get through. You got to keep this game going and understand that if you make a controversial or close call everybody’s not gonna agree with it and you are going to have people voice their concern about the situation. Hopefully three minutes later it’s over with and you go on with the game. You did the best that you can making that call.”
This confrontation from players, coaches and fans Joly said is what may keep some younger people from being an official.
“You have to have thick skin to be an official and young officials just do not like the confrontation from players, coaches or fans,” Joly said.
Stiede said those who are interested in being an official should work with the schools.
“My advice [to anyone considering becoming an official] would be to get in contact with the great athletic directors that we have in the area, the outstanding varsity coaches we have in the area and work with them and start off in the middle school, the freshmen and JV level and really learn the game,” Stiede said. “Understand officiating is not just knowing the rules. Officiating is knowing how to apply the rules.”
Joly said finding a mentor is very important for anyone wanting to become an official.
“Join an association and go to meetings and learn,” Joly said. “Find another official who has been working that sport and have them mentor you. Be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge there is to learn on officiating that sport. Remember you can never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but learn from them. Seek out how to do things the correct way.”
Being an official, Stiede said does require a time commitment on the officials part.
“You have to keep up with the game, keep up with the rules, you have to stay in shape physically and mentally,” Stiede said about being an official. “You have to make sure you can handle a situation where you know you can have parents that are going to be upset and how are you going to handle that situation. The best thing you can do is be prepared.”
He said being an official is more than just showing up at the game.
“You can’t go into game and quick walk to gym and say okay I’m ready to officiate,” Stiede said. “You have preparation to do. You need to be as prepared for the game as the coaches, players and parents are.”
Stiede said he thinks he has officiated a great game if the fans don’t recognize him after the game.
“An official is not to be there to be a focal point,” Stiede said. “An official is there to manage the game. The focal point is to be on the players and on the coaches. If you manage the game correctly you don’t need to be the focal point.
“Too many times our officials do what they want and become a focal point in the situation. That is why as officials we need to make sure we don’t have en ego and that we are there for the kids and the game and not there for ourselves.”
Even with the struggles and time commitment, Joly said he still enjoys being an official.
“I have been officiating for a long time and am officiating some sport year round and would not trade it for anything,” Joly said. “It has been a part of my life and will continue to be for many years to come. I have met some great players, coaches, administrators and other officials and it is what I love to do.”