GREENVILLE – Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall hung up his spikes and called it a day in 2006 after a 27 year career of officiating OHSAA high school sports, most notably his Friday Night’s football officiating throughout the Miami Valley and beyond.
Stegall understands the frustrations high school official and coaches encounter as hundreds of high school officials are walking away from the activity often leaving high school athletic directors and assignors scrambling to cover the thousands of games across the state each week. More than 800 officials left the ranks just last year and many more are calling it quits before the start of the 2019-2020 season.
Commissioner Stegall took time to give his thoughts on sports as we sometimes see it playout today, beginning with adults, both fans in the stands and parents as there will be no sports without officials.
“Keep quiet – it’s that simple,” began Stegall. “Keep quiet, quit making excuses that the officials cost your kid the game, the coaches don’t know what they’re doing – let the coaches coach, let the officials officiate and just be quiet.”
“A kid sees you sitting up there in the stands criticizing coaches, they get the idea it’s not their fault. If you have a young person sitting beside you thinking up in their head – boy I’d like to be an official some day, well, listen to all these people. They’re calling my mother and father names, they’re calling me names. I don’t want to put up with this. Just enjoy the game – shut-up, it’s that simple.”
“Fans have the right to boo. They can boo and not like calls, that’s fine, but most of it is starting to get personal. A lot of these parents are going to the school boards and telling them to fire that coach, they’re not playing my kid, don’t have that official back, he’s prejudice against us. That’s ridiculous, that is totally ridiculous.”
“A couple of things; you’re going to have to have school boards that have some guts and No. 2 you’re going to have to start having some respect out there. If you don’t you’re not going to have officials. I can’t blame these young kids for not going into it. I hear some of the things people say at some of these games, it’s just totally ridiculous. Who wants to put up with that? The old guys are used to it.Us old guys realize they’re idiots but if your young, do you really want to put up with that – no.”
Stegall took time to talk about the responsibilities the athletes have to the program.
“They are not forcing you to do it, you choose to do it so if you choose to do it, you sign an unwritten contract that you’re going to play the sport the way the coach wants you to play it, you’re going to play it as hard as you can and you’re going to learn something from it. Very simple. No one is forcing you to do it. Don’t do it if you don’t have the heart for it, don’t do it if you don’t have the guts to do it, but if you decide you want to do it then you’re taking it all, the criticism, the hard work, what you have to do to be better – all this. It is not a right, it is a privilege.”
Stegall, a GHS alum football player does encourage students to play high school sports, young people to step up and officiate and for men and women alike to coach our youth.
“It’s one of the best things you can do,” Stegall said of officiating. “It is the best training ever. It is the absolute best training ever for politics. No. 1 you have to learn conflict resolution, you have to make a decision, you’re going to have to learn how to make a decision and you’re going to have to learn how to take criticism.”
“Twenty-seven years I learned an awful lot about that,” continued Stegall. “It does prepare you for life. You’re going to get criticized in life. You have to know what’s true and what isn’t, what to take in your mind and what not to. Most of it you can blow off because it’s just criticism. Unless you are out there doing it or have done it before, you really don’t know what goes on out there. If you’re sitting in the stands 25 rows up criticizing the guy that’s down there that is sacrificing his time for very little money, you’re not being fair to him, their wives, families and their kids.”
The following is a reprint from the Greenville Daily Advocate from 2006 written by Commissioner Stegall as he retired from OHSAA football officiating, titled: ‘After All’.
Last Friday night, I refereed my final high school football game. After 27 years, I decided early in this season that I was calling it quits. I have enjoyed every minute, but realize that there is a time for everything to end.
As I reflect back on my career, I would like to share some information with you that most of you probably do not know about high school officials. The first is that we do not do this for the money! At $55 to $60 a game, we are not getting rich. Most of us drive an average of 25 miles to get to our games, spend four hours at the stadium, and then go get something to eat, so that takes some of the money for fuel and food. This, if you add on the cost of uniforms and supplies, (about $200) you can see it’s not very lucrative!
Secondly, officials work hard and study hard to become officials. It takes two years to become a Class 1 Official in Ohio, four very hard tests, hours of required classes, being watched and observed by other official or a least two games, before you get the honor (and believe me it is an honor) to be called a Class 1 football official. Then every year, you are required to attend one state meeting plus four local association meetings.
After all that, if you are lucky enough to find a crew to work with, then you get to go to games where and observer watches your every move and lets you know at the end of the game what you did wrong! So, you may ask, why do it? Why put yourself in a position to have people yell at you and ridicule your best efforts out on the field? Because we love the game and the athletes and the challenge! In my opinion, football is the greatest game out there. It teaches toughness, how to work with others, communication, and it humbles you at times. I have been privileged to see so many great athletes, and coaches and to talk to them and learn from them also!
(Question: What position did A.J. Hawk play in his last high school game? I’ll tell you later!) Mostly, though football teaches responsibility. You have to be responsible enough to carry out your part of the team’s goals, or you fail as a group. It is the same with officials. The five of us are in this together to make sure the game is played fairly and as cleanly as possible. In my career, I have been honored to work with some men in town here who unselfishly gave a part of their lives to help young men succeed, not on the field, but in life
Those men are, Chip Caldwell, the first referee I worked with whom I respect to this day; Larry Ullery, the best back judge in the area; Dave Henry, an up and coming official who will take over my crew next year; Mike Holsapple, as steady as they come; Martin Borgerding and Matt Jordan, two rookies who are really gonna learn stuff in the next couple of years; and finally, Dale Ary, who is by far the best umpire in the state of Ohio.
If any of you see these guys out, tell them you appreciate what they have done, or are doing for the youth of this area. It isn’t easy doing what they do, and they deserve our respect. If any of you out there want to become part of this brotherhood, contact any one of us. We will be glad to help!
While I am at it, let me also mention the wives of the gentlemen. They are the ones who are alone on Friday nights, waiting for their husbands to come home so they can start doing their laundry so they can get dirty again next week!
They also deserve your, and our respect, as they have to sacrifice too! So as I slip into retirement, I can honestly say, it has been one heckuva ride and would do it all over again!
By the way the answer to the question what positon did A.J.Hawk play in his last high school game? I was Quarterback against Beavercreek High School. I know, because I was there on the field, in my referee position right behind him, at Centerville!
Devoted Raw Milk Drinker and an American Citizen