Science Hill hoping to create future influx of officials

Douglas Fritz • Oct 10, 2019 at 3:12 PM

Perhaps in the future fans can be a little less critical of those who brave the waters of officiating sports.

That’s one possible outcome of the new class being offered at Science Hill High School. It is a course that teaches students how to officiate athletic events.

It is believed to be the first class in Tennessee to teach sports officiating in high school.

Scottie Whaley, who teaches the course, said he hopes some students will become officials. And he would like to see all of them become better fans.

“We want to be able for our kids to understand the games and understand the rules,” said Whaley. “Part of being an official is being knowledgeable of the rules. We want the students to be able to interpret the rules, and do it in a respectful manner. Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Hence, one part of the curriculum is conflict resolution.

“We’ve talked about how to handle certain situations,” said Whaley. “We tell them be nice, be fair, and be firm.”

Alabama is believed to be the first state that offered such a course. Other states in the Midwest followed suit. Some of them use coaches to teach the class — Whaley is the Lady Hilltoppers’ head basketball coach — while others employ officials.

Science Hill’s class teaches the ins and outs of officiating multiple sports, including football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, softball and baseball.

The need for this class is obvious. There is a shortage of officials across the country as fewer people are willing to put up with obnoxious fans, late-night travel and low pay.

“It think the class was overdue,” said Whaley. “Other schools in the area are considering it. I know David Crockett has talked about doing it.”

Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner approached Whaley with the idea that the class would work at Science Hill. The duo submitted their proposal to the Tennessee Department of Education and received a five-to-six year approval.

When the class was announced, 120 students registered for it. Whaley said close to 30 enrolled for the fall semester with the same amount expected in the spring.

“Next year we might add another class,” said Whaley. “We decided to look at one class and see how it goes. We hope it continues to grow.”

Students will be graded on quizzes, submissions, and hands-on work — like officiating in the gym. They will be evaluated for their work on the courts and fields just like regular officials.

Whaley said Science Hill wanted to have a full-time teacher running the class, so it was listed with a physical education or wellness certification. But he added the plans are in place for officials to play a role.

“(Veteran official) Ron McEwen is coming Thursday to speak to our kids,” said Whaley. “We’re trying to get (longtime referee) Lynn Griffith to talk to the class as well.”

Also, Whaley said Steve Willis, Director of Human Resources in Johnson City, is on the list to talk to the students about employment opportunities for those people who are willing to officiate.

“Opportunities are there for them to learn a job skill, be employable, and make some money,” said Whaley.

Whaley said the class has athletes and non-athletes.

“It’s mostly kids who love sports,” said Whaley. “Some kids don’t play, but wanted an avenue to be involved. And some of the kids who play now but won’t play in college may want to stay involved in sports.”

Overall, Whaley said he likes what he has seen.

“This is a really good class,” he said. “It is officiating your peers. We have really good students. From the feedback I’ve gotten, they enjoy this.”

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