TAUNTON – A new sports officiating class at Taunton High School aims to help with the shortage of referees for youth and high school sports by teaching students the fundamentals of refereeing.
Wellness physical education teacher Brad Kaneski, who worked as a referee himself, is teaching the class of 20 upperclassmen the basic skills to officiate games.
Taunton High School Athletic Director Mark Ottavianelli said the class will allow the students to make money refereeing youth sports games and serve as a role model to players. The class, he said, was recommended by Taunton High assistant basketball coach Chris Green who recognized the shortage of referees in all sports.
“This is a great opportunity for kids. When they are in college, they can be an umpire or a referee in a sport they love," he said. “They learn how to do sports statistics, operate a contest’s timing clock, and officiate."
Ottavianelli said the students are taught how to officiate in sports through a Ref Reps curriculum, which is based on the National Federation of State High School Association. Ref Reps offers instruction to high school and college students who want to officiate in football, softball, baseball, volleyball, lacrosse, wrestling, flag football, ice hockey, swimming, diving, and track.
The class, which meets daily, combines classroom instruction where they learn the fundamentals of refereeing with games in the gymnasium where they implement what they have learned.
“They go over it (rules) in the classroom, and they meet in the gym during the following week,” Ottavianelli said while students played basketball and received instructions about the sports rules last week.
Ottavianelli said the athletic department hopes to provide students with officiating instruction in baseball, softball, and lacrosse to enable them to referee junior varsity and freshmen sports teams during the spring season.
Students taught how to respond to protests
Koneski said students are also taught how to react to spectators and coaches who angrily protest refereeing decisions.
“I tell them they can answer a question by a coach,” he said. “But I tell them not to respond to yelling.”
Ottavianelli said teaching the students how to deal with angry protests “will help them throughout their lives.”
“It is giving them some conflict resolution skills,” he said. “They are learning how to deal with people.”
Green said many referees retired during the COVID pandemic, but also noted that some have left the job due to verbal harassment from parents at games when they protest a referee's decision during a contest.
Concerns about the harassment of baseball umpires by parents and coaches were raised in August during a demonstration on Taunton Green by the Greater Taunton Amateur Baseball Association.
The protest was organized by the umpires association to urge support for legislation to address the issues of assaults and harassment of sports officials that have occurred during youth games.
Students enjoying the program
Taunton High senior Tyson Carter, who plays on the varsity basketball team, said his love for sports encouraged him to enroll in the officiating class.
“I want to stay connected with the game when I’m not playing it in the future,” he said. “It (refereeing) is a great skill to have.”
Carter said he refereed three soccer games during its recent season.
“It was fun,’ he said. “I was nervous about refereeing, but once I got out onto the field, it was fun.”
Carter said he felt confident refereeing, and that encouraged spectators to believe in his officiating decisions.
“If people see that, they will believe you know what you are doing,” he said.
This article originally appeared on The Taunton Daily Gazette: Taunton High students taught to referee sports with new class