Registration is now open for the premier officiating event of the year, the 38th annual Sports Officiating Summit presented by the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO).
The 2020 Summit will be held July 26-28 in Montgomery, Ala., at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center in the heart of downtown Montgomery. The theme of this year’s Summit is “Good Sports, Bad Sports, Better Sports Through Officiating,” and it will focus on all aspects of sporting behavior, including how it impacts recruitment and retention, skills for managing situations, and the officials role in improving sportsmanship. The event is presented by the NASO in conjunction with the NFHS and the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA).
A benefit of hosting the National Summit is that it provides for an additional day of officiating training and education exclusive to the host state. This year, “Officiate Alabama Day” will take place on the Saturday prior to the Sunday opening of the Summit. Officials from all sports across the state of Alabama will have the opportunity to attend Officiate Alabama Day and learn from the top officials in the country. ”The NASO Summit will bring more than 500 sports officials from across the U.S. to Alabama and will have a major economic impact on Montgomery and the state,” said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “We are very excited to be able to host this summit. Some of the greatest minds in sports officiating will be here as clinicians. It affords the AHSAA and our state’s sports officials an incredible opportunity.”.
Leaders of state high school officiating programs, local association officers, supervisors and coordinators, assigners, conference administrators and sports officials at all levels – from around the country and the world — benefit from the Sports Officiating Summits.
When NASO brings its Summit to Montgomery, Ala., next July 26-28, it’s a safe bet three members will be in attendance. Each has been to more than a dozen Summits.
NASO contacted Dennis Morris, Lima, Ohio; Alan Zarrow, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Dan Steiner Columbus, Ohio, to find out what keeps them coming back.
Morris cited “the opportunity to network with other officials and association leaders as well as to renew friendships,” as a draw.
“I have had the opportunity to discuss many officiating concerns such as assigning, leadership and sportsmanship with leaders and officials in many sports from all areas of the U.S., which I could then relay to association leaders in my area,” said Steiner, attendee at every Summit since 2002.
It isn’t hard to build lifelong friendships when you attend 27 Summits like Zarrow. “Right from the beginning, I was taken into a group of several couples,” he said, naming the Lonardos, Clines and Combs, other Summit regulars. “We have shared decades of good times and stories together.”
Over the years, NASO has had many speakers. Morris, a veteran of 12-15 Summits, said he was impressed by video messages from Gen. Colin Powell and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “While they have little or nothing to do with officiating per se, they seem to have a good grasp of what we do and put things into real life perspective,” Morris said.
“Almost all of our speakers are true ‘people persons’ willing to educate,” Zarrow added.
In addition to being a regular attendee, Steiner has seen so much value in Summits that he has spread the word to other officiating leaders who now attend.
The “Say Yes to Officiating” website is a recruiting and retention tool NASO provides for the industry.
It is safe to say that USA Volleyball Director of Officials Development Pati Rolf is one of those who has lived that “say yes” mantra her whole life, much to her husband Kent’s chagrin.
“He does my taxes,” she said with a laugh, “and when he’s sitting there pouring over the paperwork, he asks me, ‘Where were you (on thus and such date)?’ And I’m thinking ‘Kansas, Tokyo, Mississippi, Penn State (etc.).
“I’m just a very curious person. I like doing new things and I find it hard to say no (laughs).”
Rolf has expressed her love for volleyball in all kinds of curious ways in the coaching, officiating and administrative realms and that is a major reason why NASO honored her with a Great Call
Award at the recently held Sports Officiating Summit in Spokane, Wash.
Her latest turn of curiosity led the close-to-30-year volleyball referee to accept the USA Volleyball position in early 2018 despite a schedule that would daunt an official with half her years of service.
She has been a certified FIVB official since 1999 and has earned vast international acclaim for her work. At the 2016 Rio Olympics Rolf became only the second woman to referee the women’s gold medal match (she worked the NCAA women’s final later that year). She also took part in the women’s gold medal match in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Rolf has worked all levels of volleyball officiating in her career (up to 500 matches a year at one point) and also has years of experience as chair of the USA Volleyball Rules Commission. For her efforts, she has been inducted into the PAVO Hall of Fame.
But still, she was restless.
“I really liked where my career was,” she said of when USA Volleyball came calling, “but like I said I wanted to try something new. As director of officials development I’m working with volleyball officials on all levels.
“From indoor to sitting (paralympic-style) to beach and from beginners to the most experienced veterans. It’s been a great challenge.”
But as noted, that was only part of the reason why she was the recipient of the Great Call Award at the NASO Summit. For along with her vast officiating experience, she has also been a hall of fame level college coach.
Often in concert with her officiating work.
Rolf coached for 25 years including 14 years of hall-of-fame work at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where she accrued over 300 wins. She also had very productive stints at Marquette and
East Carolina Universities, bringing her career win total to 425. She retired from coaching in 2012.
“I just kept reffing while I was coaching,” she said. “I would coach a game (at Duluth) and then hop in a car, drive hours and officiate a Big Ten game. I just have to laugh at myself thinking about that.”
The still-new USA post causes her to split her time between the USA Volleyball offices in Colorado Springs, Colo., and her home in Pewaukee, Wis.
Rolf said the Great Call Award is a terrific honor but that its scope takes in much more than just her own copious amount of work.
“The smartest thing I ever did was join NASO,” she said, “because an award like this represents the group, not your own individual accomplishments. It’s so great that NASO honors someone like me because it gives recognition to all the work that they (the people at USA Volleyball and all other volleyball officials) do.
“It is so neat to get this, because it gives you a chance to acknowledge all the great people and teammates you’re involved with.”
A native of Hopkins, Minn., Rolf was a hall-of-fame athlete in volleyball at North Dakota State back in the early 1980s. She credits her coach at Hopkins for getting her started in officiating in the late 1970s.
“We just didn’t have a lot of refs then so when he asked if anybody would want to I just raised my hand and said ‘I’ll ref,’” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of training at the time. A lot of it was on the job.”
And that’s where the “saying yes” part of her life began in earnest as Rolf would earn pocket money at North Dakota State by working recreation-level tournaments, sometimes up to 12 matches a day.
“It was like, ‘Do you want to work lines at this match?’ ‘Do you want this rec tournament?’ ‘Do you want to try a Big Ten match?’” she said.
“It was always, ‘Sure, yes!’ That was the story of my life.”
And she’s still not ready to start saying “no” just yet.
Rolf still worked a high-level collegiate schedule this past fall and also took part in the 2019 World Cup and though FIVB requires its officials to retire at a certain age, they agreed to extend Rolf’s career by another year which gives her a chance at potentially closing things out next year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Maybe they’ll ask,” she chuckled.
And if they do, everyone already knows what the answer will be.
For bold steps in trying to curb foul behavior by coaches, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) and its executive director Bernard Childress received a Great Call Award from NASO on July 22.
In his letter, NASO President Barry Mano stated: “The TSSAA came out publicly in support of a harsh penalty to signify that improper behavior, in this case against an umpire, is not going to be dealt with lightly.”
Childress told Tennessee’s Times Free Press: “It’s up to the administrators to take action that is appropriate for whatever the violation is, and in this incident, the action that the school administration had submitted was not appropriate for the behavior of their coaches,” he said. “We have to penalize appropriately so we can send a message to others that this will not be tolerated.”
Childress was referring to the behavior of Haywood High School baseball coach Dusty Rhodes in a 6-4 loss to Sequatchie County in a May playoff game.
Both Rhodes and assistant Alex Whitwell were ejected, and Rhodes had to be restrained by players and staff as he argued an illegal pitch call. Rhodes kicked dirt on the umpires and followed them around the field.
Per TSSAA, both Rhodes and his assistant must sit out the first two games of next season and the baseball program was placed on restrictive probation for two years with the athletic program being placed on probation for two years. Under restrictive probation, a team is not eligible to participate in the postseason and cannot receive any award recognizing its regular season accomplishments.
Further, the baseball program was fined $2,000 and the athletic program was fined an additional $2,000 along with Rhodes and Whitwell being fined $250 each.
“Having an organization like the TSSAA, its Board of Control and you speak out and loudly about the need for civility and decorum means a great deal to the men, women and young people who officiate sports,” Mano wrote in his letter to Childress.
One of the hallmarks of a good official is being able to keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs.
It’s even more impressive when the composure is being shown by a 14-year-old boy when surrounded by a group of adults who are the ones acting like children.
Such was the case for Josh Cordova Jr., who made national headlines in June for his mature approach and calm demeanor when parents and coaches started to verbally and physically assault each other during a youth baseball game being played by 7-year-olds in Colorado. While the fists and words flew, Josh made a priority of keeping the players out of harm’s way.
“I helped them get away. I just wanted to make sure they were safe,” he said.
Police were called to the field, and Josh offered his perspective to law enforcement before returning to the diamond and working two more games that day.
“I just wanted to keep my obligations,” he said.
For his ability to stay calm, keep the young ballplayers safe and provide a mature example of sportsmanship, Josh was honored this past summer with the NASO Great Call Award. He and his family were brought to NASO’s 2019 Sports Officiating Summit in Spokane, Wash., where he received the award. He also took center stage for an interview by Fox Sports officiating analyst Mike Pereira, again showing an uncommon maturity before a crowd of hundreds of officiating leaders.
NASO Founder and President Barry Mano explained that Josh’s actions on that fateful June day — and under the intense media spotlight that followed — made him an easy choice as a worthy Great Call Award recipient.
“During a game he was umpiring, Josh was regrettably dragged into a scene of adults acting like jerks. Words and fists flew and the umpire in charge, Josh Cordova, demonstrated a maturity and a presence that is noteworthy even for adult umpires and sports officials,” Mano said. “The video of that untoward event went viral and when we saw it at NASO, we said we need to recognize the stellar way Josh handled himself and the situation.
“When he presented himself on stage during the 2019 Summit in Spokane, his maturity and situational awareness were again on full view. It was neat to watch the audience of 500 officiating leaders come to their feet in recognition of Josh’s positive officiating light.”
In addition to his NASO recognition, Josh also caught the eye of Major League Baseball umpire and Colorado resident Chris Guccione, who invited him to a Dodgers-Rockies game at Coors Field in Denver, where he received some new umpire swag and had the opportunity to deliver the lineup cards to home plate for the pregame umpires meeting.
Perhaps the best part of the aftermath of that fateful day has been Josh’s determination to remain an umpire in the wake of such a series of unfortunate events.
“He handled it so well, and he’s not going to quit,” said Josh’s dad, Josh Cordova Sr.
Spokane, Wash., became the epicenter of the officiating world for three days this past summer as the 37th annual Sports Officiating Summit came to town. More than 500 officials, leaders and administrators from the high school, collegiate and professional ranks came together July 28-30 at the Spokane Grand Davenport Hotel to focus on the hottest topics in officiating all revolving around the event’s overall theme — “Training in Transition.”
Attendees had an extraordinary opportunity to learn, discuss, participate and socialize in anything and everything in the world of officiating, especially in all topics related to how we train, equip and educate sports officials, discussing what’s currently working, what issues stand in the way, and how to develop new and innovative programs to meet the challenges facing the industry.
Todd Stordahl is looking forward to checking out the survey data regarding Officiate Washington Day when it trickles into the Washington Officials Association (WOA) offices in the coming months.
Until then, the executive director of the WOA must rely on his first-hand observations of the two-day event held the final weekend of July in Spokane, Wash., as a prelude to the 2019 NASO Summit.
“I think it went great,” said Stordahl, who also serves on the NASO board of directors. “When I walked in the sessions it seemed the group was definitely engaged. We received a lot of good feedback, which is great to hear.”
About 500 members of the WOA turned out for the July 27 general sessions, sports-specific breakouts, awards luncheon and presentations by NASO board secretary and Referee chief operating officer/executive editor Bill Topp, and Fox Sports football rules analyst Mike Pereira. A special morning session geared toward WOA baseball umpires and featuring former MLB arbiters Ed Montague, Dale Scott and Larry Young ran concurrently at Avista Stadium, home of the Spokane Indians of the Class A Northwest League.
One day earlier, almost 150 golfers attended the annual WOA golf tournament held at Hangman Valley Golf Course. It serves as a fundraiser for the group.
Stordahl shared the story of a WOA local association board member to illustrate why Officiate Washington Day is so important for the statewide organization. According to Stordahl, the woman arrived in Spokane convinced there was no reason to remain in a leadership position with her local unit. At the end of Saturday’s events, she had re-committed to serving another term on her board.
“We’re not going to know the true benefit of what happened until months, if not years, later,” Stordahl said. “I think that’s the reason you want people to stay — it was that eye-opening experience.”
Saturday also featured a new wrinkle thanks to the WOA’s unique standing as the lone statewide association in which every member is also an NASO member. As part of its companion piece to the WOA’s program, NASO put together a “Fan Fest” experience for the officials featuring games and prizes, the opportunity to have their photo taken and digitally superimposed on a mock Referee cover, and an information booth where WOA members could find out more information about NASO’s products and services.
“Did they just take advantage of the fun things or did they learn something?” said Stordahl rhetorically. “I thought the concept was great. I thought the flow was great. I would hope the officials got something out of it.”
Whatever the data and surveys show, Stordahl knows the WOA has set a high standard for its members going forward.
“The difficult trick now will be when we go back to Yakima for our own WOA event (for 2020) … does the success of this one in Spokane challenge the respective sports committees,” Stordahl said. “How do we take the positives and re-create some of it to create the same energy?
A record number of NASO Summit attendees in Spokane, Wash., in July absorbed virtual reality, emotional intelligence, video relevance and other educational messages over the course of the three-day event. With the theme, “Training in Transition,” the 560-plus sports officials from around the globe gained multiple educational takeaways to bring back to their associations.
“The Summit in Spokane was our 37th and looking back over all of them I would have to say that Spokane was extraordinary in a number of ways,” said NASO President Barry Mano. “First of all, in attendance we set records for the Summit, and sponsorship support was at a record level. I think the educational sessions were extraordinary and imparted value that we had not seen at that level before, and the networking opportunities, with more than 150 sports organizations represented, were spectacular. … The Summit has come into a hallowed space — that being accepted by so many as the Industry Event of the Year for officiating.”
Attendees heard welcoming remarks from Mano at the Opening Ceremony Sunday night, July 28, along with Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, following a unique rendering of the Canadian and U.S. national anthems by Mike Colbrese, retiring executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The next two days were packed with educational sessions featuring many leaders in the industry.
The first session on July 29 was titled after the Summit theme and featured discussions from Jason Nickleby, Minnesota State High School League director of officials; Dave Coleman, Pac-12 vice president of officiating; NFL referee Carl Cheffers; and Pati Rolf, USA Volleyball director of officials. They covered the relevance of learning through video. A big theme was not overwhelming officials with too many clips. The key is to find the right clips to demonstrate what needs to take place from an official’s standpoint on the critical plays that supervisors want to see improvement on.
“It’s more about the quality. We want teachable moments,” Cheffers said.
Developing a consistent message was also emphasized — the clips need to move officials onto the same page for enforcement. Age-specific videos and using technology such as tablets were also raised as issues in educating through video.
Rachelle Strawther, director of leadership training and development for Gonzaga University, spoke about emotional intelligence during the “Get Them to Believe” session. Strawther laid out a model to help officials better handle controversial situations.
Her model included three main components: self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy. She discussed the need for officials to become aware of their actions to understand why they respond the way they do in tense situations. That then allows the official to self-regulate behavior to improve responses in tense situations. This leads to the final step — empathy — as the official becomes better able to understand others and what drives their actions so that they can respond appropriately.
The final day of the Summit featured more technology and educational takeaways.
Omar Ahmad, with STRIVR, demonstrated virtual reality technology in the “Leading the Way” session. He placed goggles on Bill Carollo, coordinator for the Collegiate Officiating Consortium, and J.D. Collins, NCAA national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, to let them experience the technology.
Carollo and Collins got the audience laughing as they mimed actions coordinated to the reality of sports actions projected on the screen. The virtual reality goggles are used to get reps for officials, allowing them to step into the game through the imaging.
In the same session, attendees heard from Duane Carlisle, a fitness consultant for NFL officials who runs Carlisle Performance. He explained how technology tracks the movements of officials and then the data is used to help improve fitness.
Gary Frieders, president of the North Coast Officials Association, demonstrated Go Pro technology he utilizes as a teaching tool for volleyball officials. By attaching the device on the net, observers get close views of the action and officials’ judgments. The views are used in training to educate officials on plays, provide feedback and ways to develop.
The NASO Summit covered multiple other sessions, the Officiating Industry Luncheon and sport-by-sport workshops. The Celebrate Officiate Gala capped the three-day event.
Tom Lopes was honored with NASO’s Gold Whistle Award and Mike Pereira the Mel Narol Medallion at the July 30 Celebrate Officiating Gala, which concluded the Sports Officiating Summit in Spokane, Wash. Mark Uyl, Michigan High School Athletic Association executive director, served as the master of ceremonies for the special event.
Lopes, recently retired executive director of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO), received officiating’s highest honor for his significant contributions to officiating in the area of training and education. Lopes also officiated college basketball for 40 years (35 at the D-I level), including 20 consecutive NCAA tournaments and three Final Fours. During his speech, Lopes fondly recounted experiences from starting out in officiating, Special Olympics, his career in education, family and his position as IAABO executive director, from which he retired at the end of June.
Lopes also encouraged officials to remember why they are officiating and to pay it forward.
“When I announced my retirement, it was funny, I got four or five cards — I’m not sure I know the people — thanking me for something they attributed to me,” he said. “The point is all the people you made contact with — you’ll realize what you do for them. So, continue to make sure you pay it forward, pass it on. Help somebody. Nobody sitting here did it by themselves. Somebody helped them along the way.”
Pereira, NFL and NCAA football rules analyst for Fox Sports, spoke on the importance of being part of the officiating family during his Medallion acceptance speech. He said the award, which recognizes an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to the betterment of NASO, was for all the officials in the room.
“For all the fun I’ve had over the years being connected with officiating, none of it compares to an evening like this when you’re actually awarded something that you really probably don’t deserve but that you accept on behalf of many,” he said. “When I say many, I mean my family. And when I say my family, I mean all of you and anybody that’s every stepped out on the court, field, pitch, diamond.”
Pereira joined Fox Sports after serving as the NFL vice president of officiating. He also had a successful career officiating in NCAA Division I football and the NFL. He is a former chair of the NASO board of directors. Pereira was was recognized for his work on the field, in supervisory positions, his current job as an officiating analyst for Fox Sports, and his role in promoting Battlefields to Ballfields, helping U.S. veterans return to civilian life through jobs in sports officiating.