As high school football teams throughout Louisiana put the finishing touches on their preseason practice sessions, the men who officiate their games are polishing off their mechanics as well.
Yes, those “necessary evils” in stripes are working just as hard as the players and their coaches to put a quality product on the field. And the critique they have received from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association has been a rave review.
Of the 120 men registered in the Greater New Orleans Football Officials Association, nearly half attended a clinic in Westlake a few weeks ago. They wore their uniforms properly and displayed near perfect mechanics in all their drills.
According to the New Orleans association’s assignment secretary, Paul LaRosa, “We had as many officials attending the clinic in the Lake Charles area as Lake Charles had, and we performed well against our peers.”
First vice president Kevin Boitmann added, “Brian Greenwood, the president of the Louisiana Football Officials Association, phoned me to say that he was pleased with the number of officials we had and their camaraderie. We had more than 50 attendees and they all received high evaluations.”
Attending one of the officials’ weekly meetings is like sitting in on a coach’s skull session with his players. The leaders of the group dwell on the mechanics of the game, where each official is located, his individual responsibility, how to partner with another on a call and overall game management.
An officiating crew’s responsibility begins 30 minutes before kickoff. Each position has an order of pregame business to conduct. The field and side judges locate the ball boys to give instructions. The back and line judges check the field, pylons and boundaries to assure they are properly marked. The referee approves the game balls. The umpire examines players’ equipment, and the head linesman instructs the chain crew.
Consultation with coaches
“This year the referee and umpire will find the head coaches as soon as they arrive to discuss situations and to find out if there are any trick plays they should watch for, not closer to kickoff when the coaches are making their final preparations,” Boitmann said. “During the pregame play situations, the officials should ‘shadow scrimmage’ the plays to check their positioning.”
Having met for the first time since LHSAA Assistant Commissioner Keith Alexander set down his new protocol for officials in July, the local officials have held weekly meetings throughout most of the summer. Among the professionals helping to conduct the meetings are Wayne Winkler and Tony Meyers, both Conference USA referees; Kevin Vicknair, a Big 12 official; and Troy Savage, who works Gulf States Conference games as well as local high school games.
Attending the Aug. 15 meeting was six-year veteran NFL referee Jerome Bogar, who was also impressed with what he observed. He told the group, “I didn’t have much to say because you are doing things verbatim as to what we do in the NFL at our meetings.”
LaRosa told first- and second-year officials to try to attend games to which they are not assigned to augment their learning experience.
Yes, these guys take their weekend jobs as seriously as the coaches. Throughout the season they will continue to meet, review film of their games and the “elders” will critically, but constructively, point out mistakes.
They want to win as much as the coaches and players do.