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Official Viewpoint

Official Viewpoint: Young zebra says fans could benefit from some time on the whistle

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Pop Warner Football Referees

Football officials Jennifer Osborn, Scott Allen and Dacota Haynes pose for a photo at Stewart Field prior to a youth football contest between Kelso and Portland on Nov. 12, 2022.

One, Two, Three: Everything is good on the line.

Third and one. The quarterback drops back for the snap and has all the time to throw, downfield both the receiver and defender have their hands on each other.

The ball falls incomplete.

Now, you might be questioning if it was pass interference? Well, I didn’t call it.

I saw both parties grabbing each other’s hands and uniforms. Even though there were some unhappy fans about it, I made the choice and was confident in what I saw. Sometimes you have to let the players play and learn.

While commonly looked down upon by fans, coaches and even media, officiating is one of the essential requirements for any true sporting event. After spending a season throwing the flags (or not) I’ve come to the conclusion that many people may not recognize that taking the time to officiate a sport can bring a different perspective to the game.

Which is all to say, if you’ve ever thought about how much better you could do, you should give it a try.

For the uninitiated, you should know that I not only moved back home to be a freelance reporter for The Daily News, but I also broadcasted R.A. Long Football on KEDO. Even for those who have been paying attention, what you might not know is that I am also a football official. For the 2022 fall season, my first in the state of Washington, I worked the youth and middle school levels as I got my feet wet.

When I started officiating last year, it was in an effort to understand the game more. As both a broadcaster and a reporter, understanding the game is an important factor in order to help paint the picture for the listening, or reading, audience. Officiating allows me to be closer to the field and empowers me to know what I’m looking for while perched in a press box.

One common misnomer I’ve heard from those who’ve never worked a game is that officials may be asked to officiate sports they have no interest in. That doesn’t match my experience, or that of Joe Quirk, the training coordinator for Lower Columbia Football Association.

“I’ve only officiated sports that I played,” stated Quirk. “I found that recently everyone pays more attention to the officials. I wanted to do it for free when I first started because of my love for what I do.”

In the ideal world, the officials would get together once a week. This meeting would involve some training and quizzes, and maybe even a little story telling.

That’s how it used to be.

“Before COVID, we would meet at The Shamrock,” Quirk noted. “Just having a good time, and learning a few things about different scenarios.”

So while there may be some training that goes into it, the best part about wearing a zebra shirt is that it enhances your awareness of what’s going on down on the field. Not to mention your empathy.

“Being an official improves your knowledge of the game,” Quirk said.

When I first started officiating in 2021 over in Idaho, training was not a focal point. There’s more of focus to help to help new referees learn the game here in Washington, but with shortages of officials hitting all levels of prep athletics help is readily accepted and opportunities to hit the field for firsthand experience are plentiful.

For those that aren’t afraid to make the call themselves there are several associations throughout the greater Lower Columbia area that are looking to recruit more people for the upcoming seasons. If you are interested in learning how to work the whistle locally you can contact football and basketball assigner Bob Rose by email at, or by phone at 360-261-7673.


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