As the school year begins, it’s a good time for all of us to reflect on the important role officials play in education based interscholastic programs. Most, if not all officials, get involved in high school sports because they love the game and they want to give back to young people. We know for a fact that they rarely do it for the money. IHSA licensed officials crisscross Illinois virtually every night of the week supporting the efforts of our nearly 800 schools to help young people learn important lessons that are nearly impossible to duplicate in the classroom. Officials help high school students understand the importance of following the spirit and the letter of the rules that govern the games we play. Officials help young people understand the value of teamwork, the importance of fair play and the necessity of sportsmanship.
However, there is at least one thing officials do not do –
they do not get every call right.
We all know that even the best trained officials in the world miss calls. We have seen it play out for years in every sport imaginable. Fair balls have been called foul, incomplete passes have been called complete, strikes have been called balls, three point baskets have been called two point baskets and phantom fouls are commonplace in most every sport. If we see this playing out on the sporting world’s grandest stages, you can rest assured that you will see it on high school fields and courts across Illinois.
Many high school sports fans think officials should be perfect and get better as the game goes on. We hold officials to an impossible standard. If our employers held us to the same standard we hold high school officials to, most of us would be unemployed.
As you know, we don’t use video to challenge calls by officials in high school games, and the Illinois High School Association does not review the judgment calls of our game officials. To do so would be counterproductive to our educational mission, and it would hold officials to an unreasonable standard. Even when college and professional sports utilize replay, they do so on a very limited basis, and they do so because they have resources most high schools can only dream of having.
Let’s commend and applaud all the high school officials that help shape the lives of our high school students in such a positive way. Let’s be more thankful for their efforts and less critical. Let’s celebrate and recognize all that officials do to make this uniquely American tradition of high school sports the best that it can be. Let’s remember that with the help of our nearly 12,000 IHSA licensed officials, The Future Plays Here!
Marty Hickman, Ed. D.
Illinois High School Association Executive Director