NASO’s 2019 Summit Will Be in Spokane, Wash.

It is “especially vital” to be trained differently for the challenges in the years ahead given the growing responsibilities of sports officials in society today. To capture solutions to these challenges, next year’s theme for the NASO Sports Officiating Summit in Spokane, Wash., will be: Training in Transition: Knowledge, Belief, Behavior.

“Given our job responsibilities, our visibility and what is expected of officials in terms of accountability, we need to be trained differently in the coming years,” said Barry Mano, NASO president.

Mano likened the transition to a pilot moving from a prop plane to flying a jet and mastering digital commands of more advanced aircraft. “It’s a similar process for officials,” he said. “We have to train more effectively for the types of games we have.”

That focus will encompass societal changes. With increasing demands being placed on officials, how do we keep up? What new skills are necessary? How does digital technology play an increasing role?

“In our culture, there’s a churn to get around rules and regulations. Officials must have more reverence for the rules while everyone else has less reverence. We must get evangelical about this — that’s part of the transition. The Summit will be a fresh way to look at officiating and our impact on the game and our role in society,” Mano said.

In the past, there’s been a general theory that officiating is 80 percent rules knowledge and 20 percent game management. Training in Transition will focus on the game management side.

“Officials must get really good at game management. That 80-20 model may now say 80 percent of our success will come from game management and how we comport ourselves,” Mano said.

With the wheel “grinding” on officials more and more, according to Mano, the specifics for next year’s Summit were not driven so much by the need to be more informed on the rules: “We know the rules pretty damn well,” he said. “The conduct of players, coaches and officials is becoming increasingly important.” The Summit will address issues related to the increasing scrutiny placed on officials as more and more digital imaging makes its way into the public sphere.

“How we deal with captured images today can reveal how good or bad we are as officials. It’s another skill we have to learn today. We must ingest information about our performance. It’s all part of the training regime,” he added.

“The upshot is this,” Mano continued. “It’s never been harder to be a successful referee. It’s never been for the faint of heart. But if you’re good at it, it gives you a lot of satisfaction. That has to mean something to you at your core.”

Next year, the state sponsor is the Washington Officials Association (WOA).

“People are going to love Spokane. It’s a really nice town,” Mano said about the 2019 Summit location.

Why Washington? State associations come to NASO to express their interest and NASO takes that into consideration as future Summits are planned.

“We go where people want us,” Mano explained.

Todd Stordahl, WOA executive director, said Washington missing out on the Summit when it went to Portland, Ore. (2012), motivated him and the association to find the additional hotel space at an affordable price to make the Summit happen in the state. With the ability to enhance its partnership with NASO and the changing focus of WOA (the association will have 100 percent participation by its 5,000 members in NASO for two years when the Summit arrives next year), Stordahl believes this will be a great opportunity to highlight the successful and growing relationship.

Dean Corcoran, WOA board president, agreed that the association wants a good showing from its membership.

“Most of our membership is on the west side of the state in the Seattle-Tacoma area, so it’s a challenge to get them to drive to Spokane,” Corcoran said. “We hope to get four to five times our normal turnout for the state day, and have a large number of them stay for the Summit.”

Stordahl also expects a good number of members to stay for the Summit after the state day.

“I’ve been in NASO many, many years, maybe decades,’” Corcoran said with a chuckle. “It has great benefits and I also enjoy reading Referee magazine. I was amazed at the first Summit I went to — the number of officials at all levels who cared about all sports officiating and giving back to others. Every year I pick up something to take back to the state and local levels. There’s an improvement every year, and information you can’t find anyplace else.”

“I’m a big fan of NASO and proud our entire membership is part of it now. We’re happy to see the Summit coming to Spokane and glad we were able to find a place in the state to showcase what we have to offer. We’ve gotten so much out of previous years and it will be great to give back to others.”

Spokane is the lesser known city in Washington, after the Seattle-Tacoma metro area, but Corcoran calls it the “jewel of the east side” with its natural surroundings and outdoor country-like feel. “It’s lower key than Seattle or Tacoma. It’s a smaller city atmosphere with an exciting downtown. ”

When Mano visited to check on locations, the hotel wasn’t built yet.

“There was a beautiful property being built as part of the Marriott in downtown Spokane,” he said. “It gave us the space and sleeping accommodations to fit us, and they put together a quick package. The environment fits our event.”

The hotel is located near the Spokane River. Attendees will be a short walk from Gonzaga University. Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, a beautiful vacation area, is a short drive from Spokane. n