Lancaster-Lebanon League faced with shortage of football officials

By on August 9, 2017

Ephrata football

Tasked with covering the Lancaster-Lebanon League for varsity, junior varsity and junior high football, as well as the Red Rose Midget football league, the Lancaster chapter of PIAA football officials is looking for help.

The organization currently has 87 active chapter members, who must cover 23 varsity teams, 23 JV teams and the junior high programs of each affiliated school district.

Five officials are needed to regulate a varsity game and four officials are needed to regulate each remaining level.

As you can imagine, the Lancaster chapter is being stretched thin.

Ted Loose, an official who is entering his 31st season this fall and serves as coordinator of recruitment, says a comfortable number for the region would be around 100 officials.

The shortage might be due in part to societal changes.

“The current generation of prospective officials have greater demands for their time,” Loose said. “A generation ago, many officials were school teachers or factory workers that had the ability to finish their ‘regular jobs’ and get to the four o’clock games.”

Cody Diehl, 23, agrees the demands for his time are high. He began officiating when he was 21 and currently balances getting his master’s degree and working as a pharmacy technician at Wiley’s Pharmacy while also working football games.

“Because I am working on my master’s degree, my free time is limited,” Diehl said, “(but) I truly enjoy the game of football and just wanted to stay involved in the sport.”

This fundamental love for the sport is why Bob Gramola, a 36-year official, has stayed with the organization for so many years.

“I love the game of football and I love giving back to the game by officiating in the league,” Gramola said. “I tell guys it is a great fraternity of fellow officials and can be a great part-time job.”

In order to become a certified official, one must take a test created by the PIAA. This test, which was previously only offered in person, has become more accessible with an online version.

Upon scoring 75 percent or better, one becomes a registered official and may start attending the chapter meetings that are held once a week.

The Lancaster chapter’s meetings are every Tuesday evening during the high school football season from 7-8 p.m. at Hempfield High School. Members must attend a minimum of six chapter meetings, although attending more meetings is encouraged for additional training.

Although it varies, Loose says an official averages eight to 10 hours of work per week, not including driving time.

“I work both basketball and football,” Gramola said. “So I do not have many free Friday nights from August to February.”

Officiating football is no easy task. An official must be able to run alongside the game, keep up with the athletes, mentally absorb all of the changing rules and be firm in rulings.

The Lancaster chapter members train to be the best officials they can be by doing a variety of training such as field clinics, discussing hypothetical play situations and reviewing past film.

The need for local officials will become greater next year. In 2018, Octorara will be joining the L-L, adding another football program.

“We will need the cooperation and flexibility of all officials to meet the expanded needs,” Loose said.

Despite the demands, however, the impact the position has on young athletes and their sports programs in general is evident. After all, these events wouldn’t be possible without officials.

“Our goal is to continue to offer the high caliber of officiating that is known in the L-L League to our member schools and to transition the chapter to the next generation of officials to continue this tradition,” Loose said.

If you are interested in learning more about the Lancaster chapter of PIAA football officials, contact Loose at tloose@ptd.net. Or, go to www.piaa.org/officials for information on how to become an official and to apply online. For more information, visit www.lancasterfootballofficials.org.

 

 

 

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