Five Reasons to Become a High School Football Official
Five Reasons to Become a High School Football Official
By Dan Jenkins | December 12, 2016
Several years ago, I decided I wanted to be a high school football official. Since every question seems to have it's answer on the internet, I searched football officiating jobs on the google machine and found around 517,000 results in 0.78 seconds (so says Google).
Spoiler alert: I didn't read them all, but I did find the website belonging to my local football officials association in Southwest Washington state.
An email sent and a quick response later, I found myself attending their weekly meeting within 24 hours. By the end of that month, I was a member of their organization and officiating football.
Within a few years of what I would like to call stellar on field decision making I advanced to officiating high school varsity games—our highest level of competition. A couple of years after that, I officiated my first high school playoff game.
Within just a few years of identifying my aspiration, I was already advancing to the high profile opportunities I had dreamed of.
Today, I officiate youth, middle school, and high school football. Keep in mind, that things may work differently in your part of the world. Not every state, and every officiating organization, are the same.
Some are very democratic while others are an “old boys club.” Each organization is confined to a different geographical area and each of these geographical areas present different challenges and advantages. Also, each organization has slightly different standards that their officials must meet to work varsity games.
Nonetheless, chances are good that there’s an organization near you that is contracted to officiate high school football. If they are anything like my organization, they will gladly welcome you into their ranks.
Currently, there’s a nationwide shortage of football officials. That’s too bad, because as you’ll soon learn, officiating high school football is a great experience.
Give Back to Your Community
I think playing football has more benefits than just being fun. It teaches kids valuable lessons, allows them to be active, and keeps them out of trouble.
For kids to play organized football, they need officials. I’m more than happy to lend my energy and time to officiate their games.
I know I’m not building houses or feeding the poor, but officiating youth, middle school, and high school football is my way of giving back to my community.
Participate in the Game You Love
When I decided to become a football official, I knew I couldn’t play or coach. That meant, to be involved with the sport that I loved, I needed to become an official.
I soon found out that there are great football games at every level. Sure, there are a lot of blowouts (I mean, A LOT of blowouts), but when you get to officiate one of those hard-fought, competitive games, regardless of the age of the players, it reminds you why football is the greatest sport on the planet.
I love the game more now than when I started. I’ve also learned a lot about the sport and feel like I’m a much better fan.
You Will Get Outside and Get Exercise
Officiating football will force you off your couch and out into the fresh air. Granted, there are days that you don’t want to go outside in Southwest Washington, especially during the football months of September and October. That’s probably why we all own black and white rain jackets.
Officiating will also get you moving. It’s not the same as training for a marathon, or even going to the gym, but again, it’s better than sitting on the sofa.
Hustling is a big part of officiating. You can certainly turn a game, even a youth game, into a nice workout. If one, or both teams, run an up-tempo offense, you will break a sweat whether you want to or not.
Some of the back judges I work with wear pedometers (back judges are the officials that stand 20 yards downfield, behind the defense). It’s common for them to run several miles during a varsity game.
You’ll Learn a Lot About Yourself Officiating Football
Officiating high school football involves a myriad of skills. Some of these skills you might not have used before or haven’t used in a long time.
You must digest a thick rule book. You must learn a plethora of mechanics (“mechanics” refers to how officials administer a game). Then you must apply those rules and mechanics with impartiality and common sense.
You must deal with coaches and players. You must deal with other officials. You must resolve conflicts. You must be decisive and confident. You must accept criticism from colleagues. You must deal with criticism from everyone.
All this and more provides you with the opportunity to learn who you are, how you deal with pressure, and how you learn new things.
You’ll also discover how you handle mistakes. When officiating high school football, you will make mistakes and some of them will be very big mistakes.
After making one, will you go into the tank (as we like to say), or will you forget about it and continue officiating like nothing happened?
You Will Expand Your Social and Professional Networks
I’ve met a bunch of great people officiating. Of course, none of them are coaches (that's a joke, you can laugh now). Becoming a high school football official is a great way to expand your social horizons.
In our organization, there’s a different crew for just about every game. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fellow officials and I consider many of them to be good friends.
There’s also coaches, game administrators, trainers, athletic directors, and chain crews. At one high school, the mayor and police chief run the chains. They’re great guys.
As for the kids, they’re awesome. Almost all of them, “get it.” They’re good sports and they play hard.
Every now and then, you’ll have to deal with a knucklehead or a malcontent, but for the most part, the kids who play football are a joy to officiate. It’s the adults who cause most of the problems.
Officiating football leads to other opportunities. I now officiate two different flag football leagues and I’ve have been asked to officiate a semi-pro league.
Many of the officials I work with also do baseball, softball, and basketball. If I ever decide to officiate one of those sports, I have contacts that will definitely help me make the transition.
If you start young enough, and you pick it up fast, officiating high school football might lead to opportunities at the collegiate level. Like most things, in the world of football officiating it’s not necessarily what you know, but who you know.
Disclaimer: Notice, that I didn’t list becoming wealthy as one of the reasons to become an official. You won’t get rich officiating high school football.
That’s especially true in Washington State. We are some of the lowest paid officials in the nation. Also, you must buy your uniform, all your equipment, and drive yourself to the games. Expenses add up.
Being a high school football official is a terrific hobby, especially for those who love football. If you have the time, energy, and patience you should consider it. It will likely be one of the greatest athletic experiences of your life.
Dan Jenkins has been officiating football since 2011. His favorite team is the Seattle Seahawks. When he’s not officiating football, he writes for GoodDeedSeats, plays video games, and collects 16mm films.
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