By Joel Muhs / Staff Writer

Season after season, sports fans cheer on their favorite teams, but seldom is there much thought put into the ones that regulate the games – referees.

Much like how a game needs players to operate, it also needs people to referee, umpire or officiate the game or match, or else no game can be played. However, officials are in high demand after the state of Kansas has seen a dramatic drop-off in officials over the past year. To help combat this problem, Hutchinson Community College provides an on campus officiating club that serves as an outlet to help train and send potential new officials into the sporting world.

Although officials can be taken for granted sometimes, there is a lot of preparation that goes into being an official before they can begin to put on the stripes. It begins with pegging down a sport that an individual would like to officiate, and then it’s all about learning everything that has to do with that sport from there.

“In a nutshell, we focus on sports of interest, rules understanding, and then hopefully get them out into some games,” Ryan Pinkall said, a HutchCC biology instructor and the faculty sponsor of the officiating club.

New members are something that the club is always welcome to, given the current official shortage.

“We mainly try to recruit through posters around campus, word of mouth, and we try to get some things out on Facebook,” Pinkall said.

Due to the small amount of officials available, the current ones are having to work even harder to ensure games can be played.

“Yes,” was the simple answer given by Pinkall when asked if they are doing more because of the shortage.

“They’ve had to cancel games or postpone games just so they can have enough officials to officiate the game,” Pinkall said regarding the games from high school and at the youth level, “But the higher you go into the college ranks, the officiating numbers become more stable.” Zach Shanline, a HutchCC sophomore from Pratt who heads the club, also noted the overtime work they’ve had to put in.

“As a currently registered referee, yes. The majority of officials do have to work more and more games to make up for the referees that are leaving the profession for various reasons,” Shanline also raised concern for the available high-school officials for postseason basketball, as they are barely able to cover as is.

“The shortage will be increasingly apparent as we are approaching the postseason of basketball,” Shanline said. “The amount of postseason-eligible officials is barely over the number of required officials that we need to work all postseason assignments.”

However, Shanline isn’t ready to hit the panic button yet, as he said he believes the officiating club on campus can help resolve the issue.

“The goal of the club is to get more college students into officiating. We are currently seeing a scary decline of officials in all sports throughout the state, and we try to recruit and train students to combat that issue,” Shanline said.

Being an official is a lot more than running around during a game. Iit also comes with many challenges. However, there is one challenge that Shanline strives to defeat each game – perfection.

“In my experience, the most challenging part of being an official is the constant drive to be perfect and never miss a call, and then realizing that is a goal that is next to impossible to attain. I still go out there with the goal to be perfect, and I officiate the game the same way I would any other game.”

It is hard to imagine a world without sports, but that would be an unfortunate reality without anyone to officiate the games. That is why the HutchCC officiating club is and will continue to do its part in churning out officials to help keep the sports we love afloat.

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