Officials Spotlight:Emmett Keenan
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2023 - 8:48 AM
An officials’ shortage is often on my mind. The questions swirl: How did we get here? What do we need to do, both in the short and long term to address this shortage?
To look forward, we need to make sure we understand where we came from.
At a much younger age, I umpired and officiated when and where I could, mostly at the youth sports level. Then, 15 years ago, after a conversation with Paul Conrad, an assignor of the St. Cloud Officials Association, that centered on the struggles of finding enough umpires, I decided to register to umpire softball and baseball. It was at that point I started to realize the challenges that officials face.
How did I make sure my schedule was set so I could get to the field on time and still make sure my “A” job was covered? How did I deal with last-minute time changes because of weather? How did I focus once I arrived on site to make sure that I put my day behind me and give the student-athletes my best effort?
As an Activities Director at St. Cloud Cathedral High School, a former assignor (I assigned for 10 years, stepping down from those duties this year), and an official, I certainly have the benefit of a unique perspective. So, here is my take on what needs to happen to get us headed in the right direction to make sure our kids and grandkids can continue to play in the years to come:
- Ask people to become an official. I would not have started again if Paul Conrad had not asked me. Lots of folks have probably considered it; they just need an invitation.
- Provide training and guidance once we ask. Along with the training that the Minnesota State High School League provides, we as officials must mentor and guide new officials on an ongoing basis. We must be willing to invest our time in them so that we have partners in the future, and are able to retire when the time comes, knowing we helped fill our spot.
- As school administrators, we must work diligently to make sure our events are a fun and safe place to be, for all involved. This requires constant conversations about the way we treat our guests, the officials, and anyone else that is a part of the event. This is more than just a preseason meeting, but a commitment to ongoing education and frequent conversations, no matter how uncomfortable they can become. And, a bottle of water, a bag of popcorn, a slice of pizza, etc. go a long way to establishing, long-lasting positive relationships.
- As ADs, we need to consider the officials in everything we do. Sure, you want to change that game time. But stop and consider what that may mean in the official’s life and schedule. Every official I know will work to make anything happen for the schools, no matter how difficult. Eventually, this will lead to frustration and burnout.
- Speaking of burnout, just because you have had officials for all your games, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a shortage. We have officials working three, four, or five times a week, along with doubleheaders, etc. Eventually, that will lead to burnout, injuries, and strained family relationships.
- While most officials don’t do it for the money, we need to continue to work and plan to make sure officials’ pay is fair and just.
In my opinion, the solution is grassroots. Many years ago, the legendary Dick Putz worked at what is now Xcel Energy. Almost everyone he worked with was an official. The reason? He asked them to join him – it was as simple as that. We need to continue to personally invite folks to join us, to talk about how fun and fulfilling it is to be an official, and what we get out of it.
The Game is Calling: Become an Official.