Written by Posted On Friday, 17 September 2021 00:00

For several weeks now our local newspapers have run an ad “Officials Needed!” What they are asking for is able-bodied men and women to sign-up to officiate high school sports. There just aren’t enough to cover all the games to be played.

With schools starting it brings about “Friday Night Lights” with the kids excited to be in the stadiums to watch their favorite team. However, most states are having to move their usual Friday games to Thursdays and some to Saturdays. It’s been the plan that colleges would allow Fridays to high schools and schedule theirs on Saturdays. That’s being invaded.

All states are now reporting this dilemma. The state of Wisconsin, which is typical of many states, is reporting a 39% drop in the number of officials in the last two years. This is a far cry when I began officiating, of course, that was many years ago. Those days might have been the best of times for me. After finishing my daily teaching/coaching duties, I would head off to a Thursday night high school football game, then repeat that on Friday and Saturday earning $12.50 per game — a $37.50 weekend!

Today’s game fees are much higher, and officials can earn a great deal more (game fees vary in states so I will avoid citing). Many are saying they can find other extra work for far more than officiating pays. However, the number one reason we hear most often is the abuse that officials are subject to in our society today. Did I have to endure fan abuse in those earlier days? Of course! But for me, it was not only the love of the game but a service to young players for their activity. Further, it was needed.

However, I’m sure you recognize how badly our society has broken down due to a lack of respect. The National Association of Sports Officials reports that more than two dozen states have enacted criminal justice laws to arrest and punish assaults on game officials. Today’s officials are reporting an increase in physical attacks — mostly from fans, although there are numerous reports that attacks do come from coaches and even a few from players.

You have seen on television the physical confrontations that police officers face and further observed the lack of respect of authority in general. On that topic, cities are reporting the shortages of candidates for police officers as well.  While some tend to support “defunding the police”, I strongly disagree. Question: if an attack happens, who do I call when an emergency arises in my neighborhood? Do I really want to hear “Sorry, but we don’t have anyone to help you!” That’s what is happening in sports!

Will you log-in on how we can solve the problem of the shortage of game officials?

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Dr. Jim Tunney

Jim Tunney had an exemplary career in sports. A former high school coach, teacher, principal and district superintendent, he had a 40-year career in officiating football and basketball.

Thirty-one of those years he was an NFL Referee working a record twenty-nine post-season games including four Super Bowls, ten NFC/AFC Championship games, six Pro Bowls and twenty-five Monday Night Games.

He officiated some of the most memorable games in NFL history. His book Impartial Judgment: “The Dean of NFL Referees” Calls Pro Football As He Sees It, chronicles his NFL career.

As a Professional Speaker, he is Past President of The National Speakers Association and a Charter Member of its most prestigious group – The CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame. Jim holds every professional designation of the NSA, including the Oscar of Professional Speaking – The Cavett. NSA named him Philanthropist of the Year in 2007.

Dr. Tunney (a doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California) continues to serve his community as  Trustee Emeritus of both Monterey Peninsula College and York School; where he once served as Headmaster. In 1993, he founded the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation to support local community programs that develop leadership, work skills, wellness and self-esteem in youth. He and his wife Linda live in Pebble Beach, California. They have six children and sixteen grandchildren.

As an author he has written and/or co-authored thirteen books: Impartial Judgment, Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul, Speaking Secrets of the Masters, You Can Do It!, Super Bowl Sunday, Insights into Excellence, Lessons in Leadership, Build a Better You and his most recent book, It’s the Will, Not the Skill.

If you are looking for a keynote speaker who educates, motivates and entertains with a lifetime of stories about leadership, team building and sports 831-595-3258.

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