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Sports Official

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Volunteer sports officials can do a variety of jobs. It all depends on the type of sports league they volunteer for. Jobs may include coaching and refereeing, or being an usher, assistant coach or team parent.

Being a sports official requires knowledge of the game, whether it's soccer, football, baseball, basketball or another sport. In some cases, a volunteer trains to become certified as an official in the sport. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old.

Most sports officials volunteer because they want to be involved in the game. "I became involved in coaching youth sports after watching my son during his first year in football," says Mike Williams. He is a volunteer sports official for a youth sports organization in Georgia. "Knowing I wanted to be out there, I signed up for the following year."

Volunteer sports officials teach young players the game, the rules of the game, good sportsmanship, teamwork and self-confidence. Volunteers need to be comfortable working with children of all ages.

Volunteering as a sports official means getting to take part in a game you love. But the benefits to the organization are just as important.

"The organization gets an all-around great, fantastic, quality person to work with them for free," jokes David French. He is a volunteer sports official for a hockey association and a baseball association.

With so many different sports and thousands of participants, the need for volunteer sports officials is tremendous. Without the volunteers, many leagues would not be able to function.

Volunteering as a sports official has its perks and can make for some interesting stories.

"There was this little boy on my team one year," says Williams. "He went all season without a hit." That is until the last game of the season....

"The little boy came up to the plate and swung at the first pitch that was thrown. Next thing you saw was him hitting the ball way out into the outfield. Then he dropped the bat and started running towards the base, but with one mistake. He ran to third base first. That day was probably the weirdest, most interesting day of coaching."

Unfortunately, fun is not always the name of the game when parents are involved.

"I've seen adults at games take things so seriously that verbal fighting and insults start being hurled around," says Sherry French. She is a volunteer sports official for a baseball association.

"I recall one play-off day when a father was swearing and getting very aggressive and had to be physically removed. That was quite frightening.

"Oddly, there can be a lot of pressure in sports volunteering. Try keeping a dozen or so five-year-olds in an organized line, waiting for their turn at bat, while also trying to keep track of who scores, when. There is tons of fun to be had, but there is also a lot of work."

At the end of the game, however, the work is worth it for most volunteers.

Joseph Branske is a volunteer sports official for a girls' soccer league in Las Vegas, Nevada. "I remember one game that my daughter played so bad. When the game was over, she was smiling and said, 'I did great today.' I just said, 'You sure did,' and that was the end of it. You never know what they are thinking. She felt good about herself, and that's all that mattered."

Of course, there are times when Branske knows what his team, including his daughter, is thinking. "My favorite moment of coaching was when my daughter's soccer team came up to me after the winning season and thanked me. They gave me a group hug. I love that stuff."

How to Get Involved

Getting involved as a volunteer sports official is simple. As David French points out, "Just let them know you are interested. It doesn't mean you'll be picked, but if you're not chosen, be there and get involved from the sidelines. Often, if you are seen to be the right kind of person, you'll be asked to help out. You can start that way."

Some costs may be involved. Different leagues have different requirements. Some may involve purchasing uniforms, paying for certification classes, purchasing equipment or providing game-day refreshments.

You have to be physically fit and capable of demonstrating proper technique.


National Association of Sports Officials
2017 Lathrop Ave.
Racine , WI   53405


Links for Officials
Find links to sports associations, sport-specific sites, high school associations and college conferences

National Alliance for Youth Sports
Learn about this advocate for positive and safe sports for children

National Youth Sports Safety Foundation
Learn about this national nonprofit dedicated to reducing injuries in sports and fitness activities
Find various volunteer opportunities near you

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