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Great need for sports officials

Sun Advocate sports reporter

As the new school year approaches, so does a new season of prep sports. In our area there are many high school and junior high teams preparing to take the fields and courts. With all the games that will be played there is a need for officials.

The Officials Association of Southeastern Utah is putting the word out that there is a shortage of officials to cover the games in the region. Wendall Christensen is a long time sports official and is looking to encourage a new crop of individuals to join the ranks.

The southeastern region covers schools from Duchesne to Blanding. On average there is a need for 20 officials just to cover the varsity football games for those schools. More are needed to make sure all the junior high games are also covered. Currently there are only 12-15 officials to do it all. Other sports also have shortages to varying degrees, but currently the biggest focus for Christensen is the football programs.

Right now they have to bring in officials from other regions to fill in the gaps. The best officials from other regions are booked doing games in their own area, so many times, the least experienced and less qualified officials get sent down to this area. Knowing games can be decided on how a game is called, Christensen wants to get well trained officials in this region so every game gets the best.

Christensen states that many people express a desire to get involved, but are convinced they don't know the rules well enough. He says that actually veteran officials feel like individuals in this position are an advantage when officiating because high school rules are far different than collegiate or pro rules and there is less to relearn for those individuals who have a good, but limited knowledge.

A new recruit will receive training of league rules and regulations. A beginner will start at the junior high level and be paired with one to two more experienced officials. Little travel is involved for the newest officials. Weekly training is held to keep each official operating at their best.

Christensen acknowleges that this is not a job to do if you are looking to really make money. Non-varsity officials are paid $40 a game. Varsity officials make around $52 a game. For out of area games, the officials car pool and mileage reimburesment is paid. Each official traveling over 50 miles recieves a small stipend for meals and expenses as well.

There is a new requirement that each person has to pass a background check. But other than that, a warm body that is ready to try is all that is necessary. Christensen does say it is a great way to get fit, but you do not have to be in great shape to apply.

For those who would like to see what is involved with being a football official, there will be a training meeting on August 3 at Carbon High in room E-5 at 5 p.m.. For those who are interested in officiating for other sports, you can contact Bill Bates at 637-6556 or Wendall Christensen at 636-0622 after 4 p.m.

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