Many of the characteristics that make a good official also make a good leader. Sports officials make instantaneous decisions and resolve conflicts.
Like their athlete counterparts, few officials who begin in recreational or intramural leagues make it to the professional level, according to the National Association of Sports Officials. Those who get their start as intramural officials at Virginia Tech often keep officiating after they graduate. Recreational Sports, a department within the Division of Student Affairs, and its intramural sports program employs approximately 300-350 intramural officials each year.
Jennifer Rezac, assistant director of intramural sports and technology at Virginia Tech, says she knows the devotion and skill it takes to become a successful sports official. In addition to her work at Virginia Tech, she is also an NCAA Women’s Basketball Division I tournament official.
Rezac expanded the University Sports Officials Association (USOA) at Virginia Tech. The association provides an opportunity for students to advance their skills as sports officials, and the means to work at high school, collegiate, and professional levels. Students who wish to improve their skills and become certified sport officials accept the time commitment to attend meetings and take part in training sessions. Throughout the process, students gain confidence, as well as time management, conflict resolution, and leadership skills, Rezac said.
For Brian Wright, a graduate student pursuing a degree in statistics in the College of Science from Centreville, Va., officiating on-campus intramural sports merged two aspects of his life — maintaining a healthy lifestyle and meeting new people. He said the motivation he received from the Recreational Sports staff kept him involved for more than five years.
When Wright arrived on campus, he had dabbled in sports officiating. During orientation, he received a flyer from Recreational Sports that sparked his interest in becoming an official. “It just seemed like a really fun extracurricular activity for a sports lover like me,” Wright said. “I needed a job, so I figured I’d give it a try.”
Ryan Holt, a former Recreational Sports graduate assistant, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2004 with a master of science in health and physical education from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. He is currently the assistant director for intramural sports at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and is an official for high school football and basketball, as well as NCAA basketball. He credits Rezac and the USOA with helping achieve his career goals.
“Without their help, I probably would not have gotten as involved with officiating, because I wouldn’t have known the proper channels to go through,” Holt said.
Ben Smith came to Virginia Tech to pursue an undergraduate degree in business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business. However, his career focus changed when he became an intramural sports official.
“It changed my career passion to the field of officiating and programming sports,” Smith said, who is now the intramural sports coordinator at Virginia Tech. “Through the department and the USOA, I became certified for high school officiating and continued to work my way into officiating NCAA football and basketball.”
Smith said the USOA and the intramural sports officiating program encourage intramural officials to get involved, serve their community, and help interested students become high school certified.
Each year, Rezac, Smith, and alumni officials dedicate their time to instructing at officiating camps and clinics throughout the commonwealth. Whether volunteering or working, officials are charged with demonstrating assertive leadership skills and striving for perfection in calling the game.
Officiating provides another way to fulfill the university's mission of service. Officials not only learn the rules of a sport, but also develop leadership qualities that help them both on and off the field.
To move into college level officiating, the officials must be “scouted” by assigners, league commissioners, or coaches. A small amount gets the chance to move to the professional level, which requires years of hard work and dedication.
Virginia Tech’s intramural sports program gives young people the opportunity to start their journey as an official.
The term comes from the Latin words intra muros which translates to, “within these walls.”
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