Come fall, high school football stadiums will be filled on Friday nights. Along with the football stars, come the referees that officiate the games, but to get to the gridiron under the lights on Friday nights, they have to start somewhere. Saturday, the Southeast Football Officials Association threw a clinic for both new and veteran refs, which is a pretty good place to start.
"You know you come in off your sofa or watching it, and you're actually watching the ball, when you're a spectator at home or watching the game. Referee's can't watch the ball," said Paul Wunstell, who is entering his second season as a high school football official. Saturday's clinic gave the rookie ref the hands-on practice he needs to get better- and not get booed come fall.
"Learning the mechanics and also the speed of the game was probably most difficult," said Wunstell. "Sure, if you miss a call, miss a play, sure you're going to hear it on the sideline from a coach- absolutely."
"That's what the crown pays their money for," said Daryl Shines, an official who's been on the gridiron for nearly 20 years. "They're going to boo, they're going to hiss. We have a job out here. We're professionals, we have a job, and we have to do that job. We can't be concerned with who's upset and who's not."
But Saturday's clinic was more beneficial then just learning how to deal with an obnoxious fan, as it's actually required by the Florida High School Athletic Association every four years to stay playoff eligible.
"We're trying to get ourselves better, trying to get new people in," said Saturday's field manager Greg Domico. "We have veteran officials working with the newer guys to help them learn what they need to do."
"We get immediate feedback," said Wunstell. "It's fantastic, because you don't get that live game. So again, this is invaluable what we're learning out here."
"Those guys are just like the rest of us," said Bay High head coach Jimmy Longerbeam. "They work hard at what they're doing, and they're going to make mistakes like the rest of us. They're out here perfecting their craft, and they're out here learning and getting better, and I think it's a good thing for everybody."
A good thing for everybody- so when it comes time to blow those whistles and throw the flags come fall, this pack of Zebras can officiate with confidence.
To find out more about officiating in the area, check out the Southern Football Officials Association here.