We need more officials. It is imperative that junior clubs encourage former athletes and, potentially, their family members, to consider becoming an official.
There are two keys to hosting a high quality volleyball event: (1) having competitive teams who elevate the level of play and (2) having great officials who love and understand the game. It is of utmost importance for the JVA to make sure every official who works a JVA event feels appreciated.
Many do not realize, but aside from teammates, coaches and parents, the next most visible figure at a volleyball event is the officials. In many ways they are the ambassadors to the teams.
In 2007, JVA Executive Director Jenny Hahn brought in Donnie Goodwin to be the Head Official at the inaugural JVA World Challenge. Donnie's reputation for caring for the officials started with the first event. JVA provided what every official wanted: great matches, a quick bite to eat, a pat on the back for a job well done, and a pay check in a timely manner. Since that time, he has trained all of the other head officials with the same philosophy of understanding that happy people enjoy working with others and in turn, they project that on the court!
"Working with the JVA staff is awesome because they understand that the officials basically are the ambassadors to the teams" states Goodwin. "If an official is treated well and supported, it's much easier to absorb emotions from players and coaches. It's just human nature to know someone cares that you're putting in long hours standing and listening to athletes and coaches who are pouring their hearts out on the court."
From a Tournament Director's standpoint, officials are one of the largest expenses when running an event.
"The JVA provides all meals, hotel accommodations and payment for matches worked" shares JVA Director of Events Steve Bailey. "In addition the JVA provides water and snacks at the tournament desk. But it is all worth it when you see happy players, coaches and families enjoying our events."
"Depending on the size of the event we could have as little as 40 all the way up to 100 officials. So it is important for us to go the extra mile to make sure everyone has a great experience."
After each event, the JVA surveys the participants of the event, including the officials. Here is some recent feedback received from the officials
"Thanks for taking care of us...."
"Thanks for a wonderful weekend..."
"Just wanted to say that I appreciate all of your efforts for the officials."
"I really feel like I was appreciated for the work I put in"
"You actually care about us out there on court 65, thanks for the water and snacks...."
One of the facts about officiating junior volleyball that you may not know is that the officials are Independent Contractors. They have to purchase their own uniforms, supply their own equipment and cover their own travel expenses. The officials also have control over their schedule, related to where and when to do the work.
It is sad that in some areas of the country, officials are being threatened to not work for events hosted by JVA. This is unfortunate as it deprives the officials of opportunities for additional work, but it also exposes the groups that are doing this to legal and financial penalties. Once an entity begins to control when and where an official can work, they are liable for financial penalties due to misclassification, payment of payroll taxes, and will be required to provide Worker's Compensation Insurance for those officials.
We need more officials. It is imperative that junior clubs encourage the former athletes, and potentially, their family members to consider becoming an official.
"I can't think of a better 'after retirement' job," adds JVA Executive Director Jenny Hahn. "As most events are held on the weekend, it is an easy and fun way to earn extra money.
Additionally, the officials have a great community, socialize off the court, and their post-match sessions help each other improve.
"Through hostingJVA tournaments, I have met many fun and interesting officials and enjoy hearing stories of their travels and fun times while working volleyball tournaments. It is a great way to stay in the game!"
It is very easy to get started. The USAV website is a good place to get started. You will find information on training materials. Most regions host training sessions, most of which take place in the fall. Your state high school federation also provides training and opportunities for additional work.
As our sport continues to grow and more events are added each season, it is imperative to have well-trained officials who are willing to devote their entire weekend to a volleyball tournament. We are thankful to the officials who have traveled far and wide to enhance the quality of JVA events, and we look forward to working together again next season.