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ELKINS Amidst all the wins and losses, stats, and everything else associated with school sports competition, are a group of men and women that are vital for the games to be played.
West Virginia Secondary School Activities (WVSSAC) officials are a fixture on the field of play that are also human beings helping communities enjoy the past time of sporting events.
«We like to tell our officials that the reason we do what we do is in order to provide a service to the athletes,» WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray said. «We rely upon local officiating boards to conduct on going training for new and tenured officials.cheap nfl jerseys http://www.cheapjerseysbyw2.top Here at the office in Parkersburg, we have in house interpretative meetings to stay abreast of new and current rules of practice.
«There is quite a bit of training and in service hours required for officials to move up. We start folks out at the middle school level and provide opportunities to work up to junior varsity and varsity at the high schools. I think it is a great way for folks to give back to the community while helping to facilitate organized competition events for the youth,» Ray added.
Sports officials come from all walks of life, and there are some good veterans representing the area.
Elkins native and WVSSAC basketball official Mike Johnson has been a public educator for 37 years. He has been an official for 32 years along with also coaching baseball at Coalton and Elkins High Schools for over 30 years combined. Coach Johnson has been helping the Tigers’ softball program since 2007.
«Parkersburg (the WVSSAC) has been good to me over the years,» Johnson said. «I just love being around the games and the youth. I also enjoy the good comradery among my fellow officials. There are good opportunities, especially at the younger age levels to help kids learn the game and help them know where they need to be on the court.
«There is potential in officiating at even higher levels as well. I know some guys who are now in the Big East and ACC who have really dug in and made a career out of it. There are a fair number of guys like myself who are nearing retirement. We need young blood in every sport, but we need folks that want to learn,» Johnson said.
The veteran official went on to say «I make mistakes sometimes. And, I tell a coach when I do. But I pride myself on doing my best to give teams a good game by working hard to be accurate on the calls,» Johnson concluded.
Putting on the stripes and carrying a whistle also is a great way for athletes to stay close to the game after hanging up their jerseys, while also giving back to the sports they grew to love in their earlier youth.
Philippi native Bobby Clifton, also known as Napa Man on the local circuit, has been a WVSSAC football official for 19 years now. He is currently in the midst of completing his tenth year in calling basketball games.
«Officiating is my way of staying involved and trying to help the kids,» Clifton said. «It also is a great way to help maintain physical fitness these days.
«I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the love of the games. We are not always the most popular people as officials, but there are rewards that come with the territory. I do my best and just really enjoy being out on the field or in the gym to be part of the action in sports.»
Clifton and several WVSSAC officials do also give countless hours to helping with area youth leagues where kids in training really benefit from all of the contributions that the coaches and officials give to learning.
There also is the age old relationship matters that exist between officials and coaches. These men and women get to know each other to a degree, and honor and respect are a two way street. Being positive and doing things to the best of ones abilities are what several coaches and officials express as what is most important in the games.
«We tell our kids to just play and let the coaches talk to the referees,» veteran Tygarts Valley coach Tom Wamsley said. «We explain that referees have a difficult job and a foul may or may not be a foul actually. It is how the play is perceived from the officials’ viewpoint that counts. I tell my players all the time that it is how it looks to the officials that matters, and, that the officials have the final say.
«We also stress to our kids that officials are human too,» Wamsley added. «That is part of the game and good teams will learn to play through adverse conditions, no matter what.»
Executive Director Ray also said «we urge folks at younger level events to please have understanding. We strive to educate and train officials with all available resources. But they are human and will make mistakes. It’s all about making the games possible for the kids in the end. We truly want to do our best to call a good game and keep a positive focus on the kids.»
The ranks of officials are always in need of new soldiers, and the WVSSAC is here to help folks give back and be part of the community. Sports such as volleyball, soccer, wrestling, swimming, tennis and track are also in need of troops.