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Job Profile: Youth Sports Official

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Officiating sports at the youth or high school levels provides a terrific outlet for women and men who care about scholastic sports but may not have the time to devote to a coaching position.

While the job can be rewarding and even provide a nice extra bit of income, it takes a special person to excel in these positions. Officials must make quick decisions, resolve conflicts, and handle pressure.

As more scholastic sports are offered and more players participate, there will continue to be a need for officials. It is estimated that 300,000 men and women officiate in the United States.

Responsibilities

Any player or coach who has put time and effort into a sport appreciates the same type of effort from the officials, umpires, judges, or stewards who oversee the games. High school officials are expected to maintain strong character and unquestionable integrity.

In working with young people, officials are expected to contribute to the development and educational experience of the competitors.

Getting Started

Typically applicants attend classes offered by the high school association or an officials association to get started. New officials usually work lower level games, perhaps middle school or freshman games as opposed to varsity, as they work their way up and gain experience. Some high school officials eventually begin working college games.

Not every official has played the sport they work, but they do put in the effort to understand the rules and flow of the game.

Pay

Officials typically work as independent contractors.

Pay varies based on the sport and the level but it typically is on a per-game basis in the ballpark of $40 to $150 a game. Pay also can go up for postseason games, opportunities that typically are awarded to top officials.

Other Benefits

Officials typically find their job challenging but rewarding. Some of the benefits include some extra income, social contacts, improved physical fitness, and satisfaction through public service. A 2003 National Association of Sports Officials survey revealed that 85% of officials said they should adhere to higher moral standards than the general public.

Officials enjoy their work. In that same 2003 survey, 76% of the 2,000 officials who responded said they have been officiating for at least 10 years. And, 39% have worked for 20 or more years.

Challenges

In that same NASO survey, 49% of officials said their biggest problem is that they're not shown enough respect. Another 16% listed low pay as the biggest problem. But, 35% said neither was a problem.

Officials listed improved training programs as a priority. Other points of emphasis they would like from governing bodies include support in controversial situations and timely information on game changes and cancellations.

The NASO said that despite an increased emphasis on sportsmanship, verbal and sometimes physical assaults on officials continue throughout the country.

Are You Right for the Job?

NASO suggests considering these factors before becoming an official:

  • Sports officials are placed in highly charged situations. They need to keep their cool, even if others around them lose perspective and control.

  • It takes a time commitment to become a top official. There is more involved than reading a rulebook. Top officials attend meetings, stay updated on changes in the sport, and attend clinics to improve.
  • Through it all, officials are able to have fun doing their job, confident that they have put in the time to give their best effort.

State Associations

Below is a list of links to various state scholastic sports sites.

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming
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