NOTE: This story is shared courtesy of intangibleproduction.com. Visit the site for more stories about high school athletics in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
The most rewarding part of officiating isn’t being able to watch a game up close or even be able to be the one to teach the game as a whole to athletes, coaches, and fans alike. According to Tri-Cities Basketball Officials Association President Mark Diddens, it’s giving back to the community.
“We have a great group of kids throughout our valley that just want the opportunity to play sports,” said Diddens, who started officiating almost a decade ago when he found himself the parent in the stands yelling about the officiating and did something about it. “Officiating gives you a chance to give back to your community and you get paid at the same time. When I joined the officials association, I gained 100 new friends.”
As the weather starts to change, it means basketball season is quickly approaching. With it, the question of what the nationwide referee shortage will mean for schools, athletes, parents, and even the officials themselves? The TCBOA is trying to get ahead of the arc.
“The pandemic exacerbated it,” said Diddens of the shortage. “We need a lot of people. It’s something we’re trying to meet head on and recruit a new federation of officials.”
With their current numbers, they aren’t sure what exactly the shortages will mean. For football season, it meant playing some games on different nights with only one game being moved to a different association’s territory.
Diddens said that their organization was stretched thin last year with some officials doing 4-5 games on a given day or having to cover games in opposite areas within their jurisdiction that spans from Connell to Hermiston, Burbank to west of Sunnyside.
“The kids are the ones that get shortchanged,” said Diddens. “We’re lucky that we haven’t had to cancel any games yet, but we’re getting there.”
The association is inviting anyone who wants to be a part of the upcoming season to the meeting on October 23rd.
They offer free training, help you find gear, and walk you through the process. The organization is set on not just recruiting officials, but setting them up for success with a New Officials Coordinator and Mentorship Program for those who decide to try on the stripes.
Besides the intangible feeling of giving back, the Washington Officials Association (WOA), the governing body of officials on a state-wide level, has significantly raised the pay for officials and is working with schools to create a positive environment for athletes and officials alike.
“Once you’re able it relax, it really is a lot of fun,” said Diddens.
To get more information about joining the TCBOA, contact Mark Diddens or Assignor Ben Wutzke.
Main photo credit: Florentino Gutierrez