Say Yes to Officiating,” drew a multitude of “yeses” from officials across the country. Starting the Summit educational sessions with Monty McCutchen, NBA’s head of referee development and training, on July 30 all the way through the Gala evening the next day, attendees heard stories of “yes” to the great things involved with officiating — experiences, friendships, life lessons.

The NASO Summit set a modern record for attendance with more than 500 attendees and guests. One hundred scholarships were available to Louisiana attendees to stay and attend the NASO Summit after Officiate Louisiana Day, which drew around 1,450 attendees the day before.

One surprise for Summit attendees was a Great Call Award that went to 10-year-old Vincent Stio, an aspiring baseball umpire. Attendees were greeted at the Summit Opening Ceremony on July 27 with a news clip from CBS, which detailed how the youngster emulates the moves and actions of umpires at the Carolina Mudcats’ stadium near Raleigh, N.C.

Working with contributions from ArbiterSports, MLB/MiLB and the Louisiana High School Officials Association (LHSOA), NASO was able to bring Vincent along with his mother and father, Maria and Vinnie, to the Summit.

His mother and father spoke of how happy they are that he emulates umpires because of the important qualities sports officials have — leadership, rule following, fairness.

It was one of many say “yes” to officiating moments. McCutchen kicked off the educational portion of the Summit in a pink checked sports jacket along with his signature bowtie. McCutchen’s talk encouraged attendees to find their unique and personal “yes” moments — to find their own paths and not necessarily what others might say is best for you. McCutchen, who was essentially broke when he took his first shot at an NBA camp, chronicled his journey to make it to the NBA.

Monday afternoon included the annual “You Get to Call It” session, where speakers present a play in their sport on video, then describe the officials’ actions and the ruling. This year a twist was added — the audience voted before the presenter gave the call.

NASO’s tech team brought into play. Those in the audience were told to access the Slido website. Then the play for each sport was rolled on the screen with a short description. The video clip was stopped and the audience voted on one of two choices (catch/no catch; red card/yellow card, etc.). The vote was electronically tallied on the big screen in seconds and then compared with the actual ruling on the field or court. Feedback on the session was tremendous, according to moderator Ron Foxcroft, Fox 40 CEO.

Another important say “yes” to officiating resulted from the “Actions Speaking Louder Than Words” session, where the speakers outlined successful programs through video and PowerPoint presentations.

  • Davis Whitfield, NFHS chief operating officer, outlined national recruiting efforts.
  • Jason Nickleby, Minnesota State High School League director of officials, detailed the state’s “Thank a Ref” campaign.
  • Dean Corcoran, board president of the Washington Officials Association, spoke about initiatives in his state to recruit and retain officials.
  • Jeff Collis of Fox Valley Blues Umpires explained a program to buy back used equipment to sell at a discount to new officials.
  • Joan Powell, coordinator of women’s volleyball officiating for the Pac-12, explained the importance of reaching out to younger players.
  • Ben Glass, of Ben Glass Law, and a longtime soccer official, described his initiative in Northern Virginia to improve school sportsmanship by recognizing those meeting specific sportmanship goals.
  • Mike Fitch, executive director of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, detailed a program of public service announcements and recruitment efforts to enlist new officials.
  • Bill Carollo, Big Ten coordinator of football officials, spoke on minority and female recruitment efforts.
  • Don Van Massenhoven, director of officiating operations for the NHL, outlined a special program to target former players as potential future referees.

As attendees have come to expect, Mike Pereira brought his signature humor to “After Further Review With Mike Pereira.” After his opening monologue, he brought longtime NCAA D-I women’s basketball official Dee Kantner and retired NFL and NCAA D-I men’s basketball referee Gene Steratore on stage for light banter and insightful and insider storytelling.

Several signature say “yes” moments occurred during the “Referee Voices” session late Tuesday afternoon. Speakers model their presentation after “Ted Talks,” so officials can walk away from the session with defining lessons not only for their officiating, but also for life.

Pati Rolf, director of officials for USA Volleyball, and Anita Ortega, NCAA D-I basketball official, shared lessons from their lives and on the court. Carl Cheffers, NFL referee, used his NFL experience to provide special insights, while Jim Radcliffe, a charter member of LHSOA, told his story of officiating industry support in the aftermath of his ludicrous onfield arrest by a rogue officer.

Retired NBA official and director Bob Delaney discussed “blackberry moments” (times where you find a lush blackberry bush that turns into a special experience) in officiating and life. He encouraged the audience to continue to look for those blackberry moments.
The Summit came to a close on Tuesday with the Gala celebration. Keith Alexander received a Great Call Award, and the Mel Narol Medallion Award went to Bob Kanaby, former NFHS executive director. The evening’s highlight — the Gold Whistle Award — was awarded to Bill Carollo.

Attendees lingered afterward, congratulating Carollo and Kanaby and encouraging others to attend next year’s Summit — “Training in Transition” — in Spokane, Wash. The 2019 Summit will explore the heightened challenges facing officials in today’s world and how training must embrace new techniques to provide officials with the tools to help navigate this world.