THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
Painting a Picture With Words
Let's start with a disclaimer: in New Jersey, it is forbidden to discuss matters relating to officiating high school sports on social media or any other type of Internet medium. These issues specifically reference coaches, players, and really anything else that could come back to bite the official or the state. Ergo, I can post something to social media asking my fellow umpire colleagues about recommendations for liability insurance for umpires, or about the proper mechanic for a certain play, but I can't vent about how the varsity coach of a school is a mean guy.
That being said, a basketball official in Iowa has done this. Now, he hasn't specifically named names or anything; he's in the gray zone where I wouldn't want to find myself on this issue. And an article in the Des Moines Register has picked up on these little snippets and hailed them as worthy of being viral due to their truth.
The article was written by Aaron Young on January 24, 2017, about Rich Ripley. Ripley has recorded his thoughts from officiating over the past five years, which may explain one of the reasons why it hasn't occurred to him that this isn't a great idea. A five year official may not have the frame of mind to think about how this could be detrimental. Alternatively, the state of Iowa may just not have caught up.
With all this on the table, the thoughts from Ripley are spot on. And the truth that comes from these quotes hit home for officials. Here are the examples shared in the article (edited for grammar, of course):
We find ourselves preaching the same thing over and over again: the officials of any sport are human. The best officials are working the professional leagues; as you go down in level and rank, the officiating follows it. (That's not to say there aren't any good officials for high school contests; the probability of human error just may increase.) These types of thoughts go through the minds of every official at all different points of their season. They are the common problems we all face in the fraternal order of officials.
In addition to everything the officials feel and think, keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of officials do support the kids/players and their volunteer coaches. They want everybody to have a good time. The hard work that everybody puts in does not go unnoticed.
In fact, if there's one thing to take from all this, it should be this: the best coaches and players are not necessarily the ones who garner the most victories, but rather who notice, understand, and accept the fact that the officials put in just as much (if not more) time, effort, and hard work as they do.
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Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.