John F. Russell: High school officials in Routt County help make the game better |

John F. Russell: High school officials in Routt County help make the game better

— Hang around the sidelines of high school sporting events long enough, and you will hear the comments, the complaints and the grumblings about a bad call.

There even are times when I find myself questioning the men and women who come out to officiate high school sports and agree with more than a few of the comments I hear.

But then I realize these people play an important role in prep sporting events, and without them, our children's sports education no longer would be part of the middle and high school experience.

I realize that without these people, high school sports would be affected greatly and even might go away. Schools would struggle to find a way to keep football, soccer and volleyball games fair. Our schools would struggle to keep boys and girls basketball on the courts. And who would be there to slap the mat when a prep wrestler is pinned?

Personally, I can't imagine wanting to officiate a high school game, but luckily for sports fans in Northwest Colorado, we have people willing to take on the responsibility. They are willing to ignore the comments from upset fans, to go face-to-face with disgruntled coaches and shake off occasional boos when they erupt from the stands after a call against the home team.

It's not an easy job at any level. If you're looking for proof, just take a look at what's going on in the NFL this year with the replacement referees.

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With the exception of the president, they must have the toughest job in America right now.

After watching Monday Night Football this week, I already have gained a new respect for the guys who wear the black and white stripes.

I understand that officiating a game — any game — is not a science. There always are going to be mistakes, and even when the call is correct, there are going to be complaints from fans.

But I'm thrilled that there are folks in our community who are willing to ignore an occasional complaint and step onto the football and soccer fields, step onto the volleyball and basketball courts and step into the spotlight to help our children play.

Without people willing to enforce the rules, the games we play simply would not be the same, and the lessons our children learn would not have the same impact.

So this time, instead of complaining about a call, I simply want to thank those who take the time to come out and officiate high school games in our community. Without you, the games couldn’t go on, and an important part of our educational experience would be lost.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email

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