Today I write to you from a different perspective. Not my normal Basketball Addict point of view. In fact, I won’t be discussing Basketball at all today. Maybe…
I am a KHSAA Softball Official.
This morning I hopped an Uber from uptown and after I talk hoops/shamelessly plug this piece on CMR to my driver, I arrive at the Louisville Downtown Marriott. I am solo. My ride happens to be a fairly nice White Cadillac [you came in clutch, Victor the Uber driver] and as we swing into the valet entrance, bell hops stumble all over themselves opening doors and greeting me as if I am important, easing the tension off of an otherwise intimidating morning. I take the escalator up to the second floor, not knowing what to expect. I am greeted and pointed in the right direction.
I finally reach registration and receive a name tag, schedule, and a nice gift for attending. The conference was scheduled to begin at 8:30, and for 10-15 minutes prior, I stood alone, in a vast crowd of men I did not know. As I make my way through to the Main Ballroom, I stumble upon some other people from my region. Phew. Whether they wanted to kick it with me or not, I was now their session buddy. (Thanks Bogar.)
KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett and Associate Commissioner Butch Cope kick the program off
with a nice welcome. On the schedule were some incredibly awesome breakout sessions and discussions. The MLB had brought trainers and veteran officials for a mechanics clinic at Slugger Field! At 9:05am — I had a choice to make: Current Issues in Volleyball or Female Officiating: Overcoming Obstacles. As a Volleyball Coach, I so wanted to be in two places at once, but as a female that has struggled to find a comfort zone in this profession, I opted to the Female Officiating segment.
I located the session and enter a room full of males. With only a few ladies sprinkled about — I am automatically deflated. Our speakers are veteran female officials; when I saw that on the program I was hoping to have a mostly-female environment to open up about the things we experience in a primarily male role. Turns out, these women did exactly what I needed them to do anyway — they put it all out on the table. As we discuss things we have experienced or witnessed as female officials, men are gasping out of disbelief. After the speaker showed the clip of LaVar Ball’s most recent blunder with having the female official removed from his Adidas camp game, one man raised his hand and said:
“Why didn’t her partners leave with her?”
Inside I am rejoicing: I want to stage a slow clap for this man. He gets it. Bless him. I left that session restored and feeling like I am on the right path after all.
Upon the next breakout I opted for Officiating and the Use of Social Media. It was your basic run through of do’s and don’ts — with a lot of don’ts that really never occurred to me until discussed. We also discussed the recruitment of new officials. Kentucky is not at a shortage of officials like most neighboring states, however, we are on the decline. It’s a scary thought — an official shortage means less games, which in a very direct way negatively impacts the youth and communities of our great state.
At 10:55 we all came together again for a group session: Qualities and Traits of Superior Officials. Matt Young, the OVC Coordinator of Football Officials, had some phenomenal advice and made a point that resonated with me:
“It is not about you — it’s about the student athlete.”
Do we ever strip youth sports down to that level? I think today we have a hard time looking around the criticisms of the Coach, the ridicules of the Refs, and rarely think about those kids and how they just want to play something they love. We get in the way of our own joy so often.
The day progressed with more wonderfully informative and empowering guest speakers. The KHSAA issued Outstanding Official of the Year Awards, and two gentlemen discussed the power of Mentoring new officials and recruiting a younger generation into our ranks.
It’s my suspicion that most don’t know how to go about becoming a KHSAA Official. Click here to get started. If you’re 18 or older, you qualify. Whether you’re female or male, you qualify — no matter the sport. I think I’ll try football next year. It’s a great part time job for college students — games are typically evenings or weekends and those paychecks are pretty decent. Despite the money, it’s rewarding. It’s a way to stay in the game for former athletes, a way to stay in shape, and a wonderful way to give back to
the communities that built you.
Officiate Kentucky Day was a wonderful program — one of the KHSAA’s best
events. This morning I arrived a nervous, disheartened, displaced 3rd-year female official, wondering if I would renew for my 4th year. The KHSAA’s commitment to the success of their officials truly shined — exactly what the doctor ordered.
Oh, and I got some cool/helpful swag, too.