Houston TASO Chapter to begin training of new officials this week, need 200-300 new referees
HOUSTON - With the rapid growth of school districts in the Greater Houston Area comes with it the growth of games that need officials.
The weight of that burden to make sure that every middle school, sub-varsity and varsity game across the area is properly staffed comes down on the Texas Association of Sports Officials - better known as TASO.
TASO Recruiting Coordinator Eric Dumatrait says the Houston Chapter of TASO - which covers as far north as Huntsville to down to Victoria, over to Beaumont and Sealy - on a yearly basis has a target of getting 200 to 300 new officials to join their staff.
Last year, the Houston Chapter had nearly 1,100 officials at the end of the year. Dumatrait said they are currently around 900 officials with people signing back up but would like to see that number reach nearly 1,300 in 2020.
"For every high school there's a junior high and for every one of those there's at least two to three elementary schools that feed that high school," Dumatrait said. "So, as you can tell, every time you add a high school you're talking about needing three to four officials per game for sub-varsity. Then it trickles down to the junior highs. It gets to the point where we don't have enough."
The process of getting new officials for the 2020 season begins this week.
On Tuesday, there will be the first of three three-hour training sessions - which goes over the progression of a game related to rules and mechanics - over Zoom. The training will run from 6 to 9 p.m. on May 12, May 19 and May 26. Once that is done, there will be, at some point, on field training for new officials.
Doing the virtual training, Dumatrait said this could be the new way they train new and current officials even when it is allowable for people to gather again.
"We've been looking at some platforms the last several years at how we can do this better," he said. "Not just for new officials but for all training that we do. We've been doing training for several weeks already. So, we've been looking at it and this forced us into doing something. By utilizing Zoom, we've realized this can be an effective way to train new officials in the future as well."
In the past, recruiting for new officials has included going to high schools because as Dumatrait explained,16-year-olds and up are able to sign up and become officials. Those methods have been taken away due to the Coronavirus.
"It has been more challenging to recruit with COVID-19," Dumatrait said. "When we're in regular recruiting mode we're able to go to the schools and talk to some of the kids who are interested in doing that. The other thing that was taken away is us being able to hand out literature in different locations at the local colleges."
The training officials go through, Dumatrait says prepares them to call the game properly and also deal with negative feedback from coaches or fans that they may encounter out in the field. But the positives out-weigh the negatives heavily to becoming an official.
"If you like Texas high school football, it's another way to be a part of the game," Dumatrait said. "You are contributing to creating these young men into better people. If you treat those kids right, the way you're supposed to treat them in a professional way, you're actually going to be able to impact their lives like the coaches and the parents."
TASO also gives out 10 scholarships a year through its scholarship program, which $10 of each members dues go towards.
So, what is the biggest question Dumatrait get from new referee recruits?
"The answer to that is they can make it as much of a time commitment as they want or as little," Dumatrait said. "They sign up, they can choose to only do chains. Only work junior high games or only work sub-varsity games. It's flexible. They can choose to work on Mondays if they want. So, bottom line is the time commitment is up to the individual who is going to sign up."
The other is how much does it cost to become an official?
In the first year, Dumatrait said they pay $50 local dues and $40 state dues, so a total of $90, which pays for new officials training and all training throughout the year. There is also the cost of their uniform, which can vary.