Science Hill High School is taking a proactive approach to a national shortage in athletic officials, as they have started an officiating team sports class. The elective class is taught by Scottie Whaley with the hopes of teaching students the fundamentals of officiating in different sports. The class is believed to be the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee to teach sports officiating in high school. The class was developed after a similar model in Alabama.
In the first three weeks, students have studied basketball and volleyball and they will soon move on to football. The class was created to address a nation-wide and local shortage for high school athletic officials. Also, by providing students with a fundamental understanding of the game, they may be able to officiate parks and recreation games to earn a little extra income while still in high school.
“Basically, our concept was with the national shortage of officials, and a national shortage on teenage-type jobs, we felt like we could create a niche and start getting some of these students who could take it as an elective class,” Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner said in a recent article that was published by the TSSAA (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association). “We are trying to train them and get them ready to pass the officials’ tests in multiple sports.”
The first month of the class has been fun according to Science Hill junior Marlee Archer.
“During this class we get to learn a lot about different sports, which is really nice because whenever we go to the games we can get a better understanding about what is going on,” she said.
In most sports, students will officiate their classmates as they participate in the sport. That helps students gain a deeper understanding of the sport, as opposed to just reading a rule book.
“It’s been really good hands-on experience for them,” Whaley said.
There are 28 students enrolled in the class and another 30 students ready to take the class next semester. The class spends a week in the classroom studying the sport and the rules, and then go into the gym and officiate their peers as they participate in the sport. The group also goes over game footage to evaluate officials.
“They’re a lot more rules in sports than I thought,” Science Hill senior Brenna Webber said through a smile. “But it allows us to have a class that is different and it’s cool to be able to come in here and look forward to something every morning.”
Whaley said that the program could expand if the interest continues to grow. Before the end of the semester, members of the Johnson City Parks and Recreation staff will stop by to tell the students about the officiating opportunities they provide and hand-out applications. The class hopes to cover football, baseball, softball, soccer, wrestling and track during the semester. They’ll also have local officials, including Ron McEwen and Bart Lyon, stop by to talk to students about their experiences officiating.
“We’re all learning as we go,” Whaley said. “The TSSAA has been really good to us by providing us with rule books and other materials. It’s been a fun and exciting class and it nice to change it up from your traditional PE class.”