The NJSIAA Student Ambassadors will designate the week of Monday, October 14th, through Sunday, October 20th, as Officials’ Appreciation Week. The Student Ambassadors are aware of the increasing shortage of officials across all sports in both NJ as well as the entire country, and are concerned with the long-term implications this trend will have on HS sports for future student-athletes. So, in an effort to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the efforts of the more than 7,500 NJSIAA registered officials, the Student Ambassadors will designate one week per season to show their gratitude for these men and women.
“This is a great idea, and it’s tremendous that it’s coming from the kids,” said Mike Whritenour, a long-time official who works games in football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball and softball. “Most good officials do it for the kids. We do it for them, and to respect the game. It means a lot that they would think of us like this.”
During the Fall Officials Appreciation Week, the Student Ambassadors are challenging all captains to designate one game during the week of October 14th to give thanks to those officials working that game.
Some suggestions to show their teams appreciation are:
• Providing refreshments such as water or snacks, or a free meal from the concession stand.
• Presenting officials with a certificate of appreciation from the school.
• Presenting officials with a thank you card signed by the team.
• Introducing officials at the start of the game as they stand in the middle of the field or court.
• Offering them free admission to another event at the school, such as a play, musical or concert.
All captains are also asked to share their appreciation efforts on social media by posting pictures and related content using the hashtags:
#NJOfficialsRule and #OfficialsAppreciationWeek.
Logan Germano, Barnegat senior, cross-country, swimming, track:
“We need to attract new and younger officials, support them and protect them from the parents and the athletes. One way to do that is to treat them like they are in an authoritative position. We need to reach out to our athletes and have them appreciate our officials because it is an extremely hard job. Without officials, we cannot have games. The athletes need the officials. Showing appreciation to the officials is one of the proper things to do from any athlete or fan. They are ones trying their best to make sure that a game is fair, safe and friendly. Some of these officials may have been in the same shoes as an athlete, where they themselves had moments when they disagreed with something in a live game. Therefore, officials are our friends, and they deserve our utmost respect.”
Shomiron Dhar, Lenape senior, soccer and track:
“I think it is really cool that this idea has been developed by the ambassadors, because it demonstrates the purpose of the SAAC program. This is a great idea, and by putting into place we can show that the Ambassadors are playing a role at the NJSIAA and that our voice is being heard. In our games, we are usually mixed between two and three referees. Obviously we would prefer three, but we are very appreciative of the officials that make it out. Many people don’t realize that there is a shortage of officials because of the difficulty of the job. Everyone makes mistakes and you can’t expect every call to be in your team’s favor. Most players just get in the heat of the moment and blurt out their thoughts but it is important to also show your appreciation for them, as the game is impossible without their being there. It’s a difficult job, and they still come out despite knowing they won’t be liked by everyone. Showing appreciation is a great way to make them feel better.”
Meghan Lichtenberger, Rutherford junior, marching band, swimmer, and softball manager:
“I think it says a lot that the ambassadors have noticed the pressure and hate that the officials see. It is something I have always noticed since my recreation years. My sister used to be an umpire for our recreation softball teams, and came home with stories of parents yelling at her. It is definitely a problem in the sports world. To be honest, it impacts the players, too, because we are on the field with them and we hear and get embarrassed by the commotion. I am beyond grateful for the work and effort officials put in. Because without them, there would be no game or meet. I make sure that I go up to each official and thank them for the work they do and for just taking the time out of their day to be there. Officials are important and I want them to feel important and wanted. I’ve seen the heat that goes on first hand - it’s impossible to go to an event and not hear it. I feel bad when an official gets scolded, because almost all of the time, the parents care more and get angrier about a bad call than the players do. I really hope that the ambassadors can help change this, or at least lessen the blow with our Officials Appreciation Week.”
Emily Smart, Haddonfield junior, field hockey, basketball and lacrosse:
“I do believe that the number of officials is decreasing, because I have had the same refs for many of my games this field hockey season. Officiating is a very difficult job, considering the pressure they are under from the teams playing and the fans watching. Having an Officials Appreciation Week will hopefully let them know how thankful we are as players that they came out to officiate, because having a game would not be possible without them.”