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OUR VIEW: College offers convenient opportunity to get involved in youth sports

It’s September, class is back in full swing and so are all manner of interscholastic sports.

While athletes and coaches are in the midst of another season with championship dreams, we’re once again experiencing what has become a persistent problem in recent years: barely having enough referees, umpires and other officials to adequately staff all the competitions.

There are many reasons for the shortage, but they all tie in to a common theme: the veterans are ready to retire and there aren’t enough younger replacements coming through the pipeline. The pay can be decent: while it varies by sport, age and skill level and how many officials are assigned to a given game, local officials can earn up to $100 or more for high school varsity contests. There’s certainly a time commitment, but just as these youth programs need quality coaches, having good, dependable officials is crucial to a positive athletic and educational experience.

Enter Illinois Valley Community College, which is offering a five-session officiating course starting next week as part of its continuing education department. The Basic Fundamentals course meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays Sept. 18 and 25 and Oct. 2 and from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays, Sept. 21 and 28 at the Oglesby campus. The topics include philosophy, psychology, personal fitness, professional responsibility management and the profession itself.

Those sessions must be completed before moving on to single-session, sport specific classes: football Saturday, Oct. 5; basketball Wednesday, Oct. 9; volleyball Saturday, Oct. 12; baseball Saturday, Oct. 19; and softball Wednesday, Nov. 20. The next step is taking the Illinois High School Association rules exam to get certified in a given sport. Normally $70, those who complete the course can take each test for only $35. Even with an enrollment and materials fee, the education will pay for itself with just a few assignments.

“Sports officials are in great demand locally and throughout the state,” said Jennifer Scheri, IVCC’s continuing education and business services. “Referees and umpires help our community by filling these critical roles. It is also a good way for young people and adults to earn extra income.”

Being a good sports official goes far beyond knowing the rules of the game from time as a player or coach, and the IVCC curriculum overview reveals a commitment to turning out professionals who will do more than just call fair or foul, but help foster a controlled, positive attitude among players, coaches and parents.

Officiating is a vocation where reputation is vital to future opportunity, and that especially includes things like arriving on time, being prepared and dressed for the job and never missing an assignment. The best officials will earn both their keep financially as well as the respect of everyone involved in the competition.

We thank IVCC for offering this opportunity and encourage our readers to consider if this opportunity is the right way for them to be involved in a booming youth sports culture. Anyone with questions about the course should contactáCathy Buck at 815-224-0490 or email cathy_buck@ivcc.edu.

Beyond that, please take some time at your next game — whether a player, coach, parent or spectator —áto thank the officials for their time and expertise. We hope great referees and umpires aren’t a daring breed in the Illinois Valley, and even if we can’t all make time to don the stripes or the chest protector, we can at least be grateful to those who make sure the kids can play, learn and have fun.

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