Officiating is a calling. Being a sports official is not easy…not everyone can do it, and very few even want to. But for those who take the plunge, officiating also has incredible rewards. You’ll build lifelong friendships. You’ll be introduced to people you would never otherwise meet. You’ll witness the development of young players who will eventually go on to win the Heisman Trophy, lead their team to a national championship, or even end up as an MVP in the big leagues. You’ll be on the field for games of such passion and high drama, played with so much heart, that the ending is better than anything Hollywood could dream up. You’ll see young men and women tested to the utmost, building their character before your very eyes. You’ll stay connected to the sports you love, in a real and direct way. You could even advance through the officiating ranks and wind up in The Big Show yourself. And whatever happens, you’ll make a little money, too.
So you’re ready to get started as an official? You feel you have the courage, integrity, and temperament to do this work? Excellent! We’ll help you get started! This tutorial will show you the full path you must take to go from average fan to working sports official.
Register with the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association
First, click on this link to find out how to become an OSSAA-registered official. You MUST get this done first, since you won’t be able to work much until you’ve registered with the state. Registration costs $60/year for the first sport you register for, and an additional $15/year for each additional sport after that. NOTE: brand-new officials who haven’t registered before will get a pretty good discount on those costs, currently about 50% off. OSSAA registration not only authorizes you to work any school games, but nearly all non-OSSAA-affiliated leagues (like local youth leagues and recreational leagues) require state registration, as well. When you register, you also receive rules books and basic instructional materials for the sports you’re registered for, as well as insurance and liability protection for any situations related to your OSSAA-sanctioned officiating work (including while driving to and from games).
Join the OKC Metro Officials Association (or a Local Association in your area)
Next, contact any of our officers to find out how to get registered with our association, or just come to one of our regular meetings.
(NOTE: If you are not in the OKC metro area, click this link for a full list of Oklahoma officials associations, and find the ones closest to you for the sports you’re interested in.)
The cost of registration with the OKC Metro Officials Association is $25/year, and that covers registration for any and all sports you work. Each sport has EIGHT meetings, except for softball, which has THREE meetings. Also, the softball meetings in the fall cover both fast-pitch softball (fall sport) and slow-pitch softball (spring sport). Our approximate meeting schedule for each sport is as follows:
Baseball Mid-to-late January
Football Mid-to-late July
Softball Early-to-mid August
Basketball Early October
You can check our site regularly for exact meeting dates and times. To paraphrase John Donne, “no official is an island.” Registering with the local association and attending meetings is critical to your success, because the meetings will provide three important things:
- Education and live instruction in rules, mechanics, and handling in-game situations,
- Networking opportunities you need to find assigners who will give you games to work, and
- Veteran officials who can mentor you and give you advice and assistance over the course of the season, so that you can become a better official and advance.
You’re well on your way, and now you need a uniform and some equipment. Officiating is one of very few jobs left in the world in which how you look really matters. Perception is reality in the officiating world; if you look like you know what you’re doing, people will assume you know what you’re doing, so make sure you work hard to look your best on the field. Here in Oklahoma City, The Referee’s Call provides equipment for all of the sports we support. Some sporting goods stores like Academy and Twid’s will also have some equipment, in limited amounts. Also, if you look over to the left-hand side of the page, the “Officiating Equipment” list provides links to many online sources of officiating gear and uniforms.
Most importantly, all dedicated officiating stores offer “starter packages” that will provide everything you need to get going in a single bundle, at a reasonable price. You can expect to spend about $70-80 minimum to get started in basketball, roughly $100 minimum for football or slow-pitch softball, and around $225-250 to get going in baseball or fast-pitch softball (mostly because a mask, chest protector, and shin guards are required so that you can work behind the plate). Also note that none of these starter packages include shoes; appropriate athletic shoes, either all-black or black with white accents, are available for all sports, and you will want “plate shoes” with steel toes for working the plate in baseball or fast-pitch softball.
Get Your Preseason On
Finally, you’re ready to work. You have registered with the OSSAA and with our local association. You’ve been attending meetings religiously and have learned some fundamentals in your sport. You’ve fulfilled your basic equipment needs. So what’s next? Are you ready to just step right out and start working real games? You could, but we recommend that you work some scrimmages first. Everyone needs a preseason, and officials are no different. You can sit through a hundred meetings and have the rule book memorized, but until you actually step on the field, all of that is academic.
Scrimmages typically run for two weeks prior to the start of the regular season, so you can get as much practice as you want before you step onto the field in a meaningful game. You usually aren’t paid for working scrimmages, but the practice you will get from working in a scrimmage situation (when no one cares as much if you’re not in the right place or if you blow a call) will pay big dividends, and it will help you get comfortable on the field with the basics of mechanics, making calls, and applying the rules properly. Also, you can arrange to work with veteran officials who will be able to observe your work and help you correct problems.
So there it is, your path to becoming a working official. We sincerely hope you are still interested. Officiating is a noble profession, and we hope that you enjoy it. We are always happy to provide whatever support we can, just let us know how we can help. Again, welcome, and good luck in your new endeavor!