STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Love them or not, football officials play a vital role in ensuring a game is safe and fair.
With a shortage of officials in the Highland Lakes, the Austin Football Officials Association has asked member Brian Jones to find residents willing to give up some of their weeknights to make sure games get played.
“It’s a working relationship,” Jones said. “Coaches are there to coach, players are there to play, and officials are there to officiate. Everybody can do their job professionally as possible, work together, and realize we’re all part of the game. When you get all three things, everybody on the same page, the game takes care of itself.”
Classroom training sessions are 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Aug. 13, Aug. 20, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24, and Thursday, Oct. 25, at Marble Falls Fire Rescue, 700 Avenue N.
An Austin meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27, at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, 10211 W. Parmer Lane.
Officials will begin on-field training by working scrimmages starting Thursday, Aug. 16.
After the training meetings, newcomers will work with veteran officials. Jones noted that, while the meetings are important, on-field training is more in-depth and typically can’t be duplicated in the classroom.
First-year officials, working with veterans, start with junior high and middle school games for the University Interscholastic League and the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools played on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have opportunities to work youth football games, which are typically played on Saturdays.
Once officials complete their two-year training program, they’ll move up to calling high school games.
Jones said, while rules state officials need two years of working subvarsity games before moving up, that doesn’t mean outstanding officials can’t be promoted to calling varsity games much sooner.
“If guys show the ability and the want-to, there’s always opportunities for that,” he said.
Officials are needed for youth football through high school games played across the Highland Lakes, Jones said. Subvarsity games can pay $40-$50, and officials receive a mileage fee of $15.
While prior officiating experience is good, it’s not required.
An official’s uniform, which includes black shoes, costs $150, and TASO members pay annual dues of $130 to their local chapters.
Jones noted most officials understand half the stadium will be happy with their work, while the other half won’t be. While incidents of players deliberately hurting officials make national headlines, Jones said, in the years he has officiated, he hasn’t witnessed any.
“Those are isolated events,” he said.
The reason, he said, is because coaches emphasize to their players the importance of showing respect for themselves, their coaches and teammates, the opponent, and officials.
To those coaches, respecting the sport is about being courteous and accountable, and that includes how players react when they are flagged.
“The best programs understand that. It permeates from the players to the coaches to administrations to the community. It really starts in the community.”