MOUNT VERNON — Complaining about the officials is as old as the first football game ever played. Just like the weather, everyone complains about them at one time or another.
In the past year, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has been more proactive in their approach to the training and development of their officials in all sports, including football.
The OHSAA is reinforcing the concept of consistency in its football officials through education and special training. And the group recently expanded its staff to accomplish this.
The group has reorganized its officiating department to become sport-specific. A developmental director now oversees each sport to make sure rules are enforced evenly in every game in the state of Ohio.
“Because this is brand new, we are just scratching the surface on this,” said OHSAA Public Relations officer Kerri Hudson. “We’ve wanted this for a while. Before, we only had one person for the whole state of Ohio who dealt with officials in general, but it wasn’t sports-related. Now it’s more sports-related. You have one person who does football and one person who does soccer, etc.”
The OHSAA has set up training sessions throughout the year in all parts of the state. The purpose is to get every official to perform the same way, so that calls can be consistent.
“There is a lot of training material that we use,” said Ron Durbin, head of the Kokosing Valley Football Officials Association. “The biggest changes are in the mechanics in what we do on the field, as far as what we’re watching and where we are positioned. (OHSAA) has done a lot to make that more uniform. All of our signals on the field, to each other, are the same.”
Currently, the grading system for high school officials lacks specifics. The coaches at each game are asked to rate each official’s general performance on a scale of one to five. These ratings can, for example, affect the chances of an official to be upgraded from a Level 2 official to a Level 1. As a level one, an official is allowed to work varsity games.
“We can have observers take a look at certain officials,” said Hudson. “If they are going to upgrade their license from a 2 to a 1, a local secretary may observe them at that point. For day-to-day, the coaches just rate them.”
For coaches like Danville’s Ed Honabarger, rating the officials is a subjective process.
“We just kind of go off how we felt they did that night,” said Honabarger. “What I think was great, maybe the other team felt was horrible and vice versa. I look for referees that are not major factors in the game and who let the kids play. I look for that. Do they let the kids play or do they nit-pick on things like holding? Was the officiating lopsided for penalties? Things of that nature. If I was an official, I wouldn’t want to be noticed. I just want to be part of the game and not be remembered by people saying, ‘Boy, they blew that call.’”