The unsung joys of officiating

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It only seems like the most thankless job in sports.

Officials, referees and umpires believe it or not enjoy job perks, even at the high school level, that can lead to a lifetime of memories.

Ross Green took a closer look.

"Because of this organization here, I was able to work 2 different World Series through Little League. That's summer ball, but because of that I've also worked the state baseball tournament, I've worked 2 super sectionals in girls basketball, a lot of regionals in boys basketball, and a regional in softball. I do 4 sports, and because of these guys and this organization I've been able to do that kind of work," Shawn Dobey said.

That's just a few of Dobey's experiences as an IHSA official. There are probably a thousand stories in this room, filled with members of the WCOA, or West Central Officials Association. Open to both men and women, it's a collection of people who see games from the inside out. And they're looking to expand.

"We would like to see a lot of younger officials and younger people. They don't even have to be younger people, we would just like to see a lot of people join to become a sports official to find out if you like it," he explained.

Its easier to become an official than you might think. You can wear the stripes, in any sports you like, beginning at age 17. Just about everybody would agree that its a great way to stay involved with a sport that you once played.

"I got started officiating basketball and flag football when I was a sophomore in college, and really enjoyed it and met a lot of friends through there. I played basketball in high school so I still wanted to be involved," Dobey said.

"I'm knowledgeable about the game and it seems like something I'd enjoy doing so I figured I'd give it a try. From there, it grew from being simply a part-time job to a hobby to a passion," Dobey said.

The WCOA is just one of several local organizations of sports officials. By logging on to, you can find more info about your local organization and who to contact in order to get started. For young people, officiating can be a valuable asset.

"You understand sports better and you really understand people better because its just as much about the sport as it is interacting with people and managing people, so it will really give you skills that are beyond officiating," he said.

It's important to know that when you become an official, you're not just thrown into the deep end. There are plenty of training opportunities and free clinics available to new faces. It turns out, officiating can be both a benefit to yourself and the players.

"If you're going into any kind of sports environment to work in, it's a great way to get started and just be involved in a sports setting and good to put on a resume."

"Even though they're not going to agree with every call and you might get the brunt end of it sometimes, its really rewarding to see these players play the game because they really love the game," Dobey said. "We do it all for the kids - we don't do it for any other reason. You're not going to make a million dollars doing it, but its just important that we have people out there because these kids deserve the right to play."