When sports stories are written about high school games, they focus on the players and coaches who are the central characters. But rarely is a story written – unless there is a huge mistake – about the men and women who are the umpires, officials and umpires who decide who fouls, goes out of bounds , is offside, or is safe or home plate.
Yet these game officials play an important role in every sporting event at every level. Fortunately, many residents of western communities are hunting officials. Without them, the hundreds of recreational high school games and contests that take place each year in our communities would not be possible.
While all game officials are trained and paid for their efforts, the financial compensation is often less than minimum wage for their time and expertise.
So why do people do this work?
For Rick Schiliro, Ronnie Wood and Darin DeCosta, all of whom have strong ties to western communities, they are umpires because they love the sport and enjoy helping out their community.
They aren’t motivated by playing fees, which don’t come close to compensating them for the time they spent traveling to the game, officiating the game, and then returning home, often returning late. There is no additional compensation if the game goes to overtime, extra innings or delayed start.
Schiliro, Wood and DeCosta all have jobs that require them to be there the next morning, even if a game ends late. Schiliro is an insurance broker, Wood is a sales account manager for Coca-Cola, and DeCosta is a teacher at Royal Palm Beach High School.
Schiliro officiates because he wants to lend a hand. “I started officiating local recreational basketball games in Wellington over 15 years ago because other basketball officials encouraged me to do so. So, I did. They needed help,” he recalled. “And I’m still refereeing basketball games.”
Schiliro now hosts basketball games involving middle and high school athletes.
For Wood, who played football, basketball and baseball at Forest Hill High School in the early 1970s, becoming a sports official came naturally to him after graduating from Troy State in 1979. “I work in sales and I love the players, coaches, administrators and parents I’ve met over the years through athletics,” said Wood, who umpired football at Palm Beach County High School. for 44 years. “Being a civil servant also opened doors for me in my professional life.”
In addition to refereeing high school football, Wood also works in women’s high school flag football and recreational league flag football, youth football, and basketball.
As for DeCosta, he was introduced to basketball officiating nearly 30 years ago, and he could never walk away from it.
“I was first introduced to basketball officiating in Rhode Island,” DeCosta recalled. “I moved to Florida and continued to officiate basketball. Since then, it has stuck with me.”
DeCosta has umpired professional basketball (ABA, USBL, and summer pro league games in Miami), college basketball (NAIA), and high school basketball (primarily in Palm Beach County). He now focuses solely on officiating high school basketball.
Over the past 12 months, Schiliro estimates he has officiated more than 300 basketball games in Palm Beach County, from local recreational games involving elementary-aged children through high school games.
While fans and coaches criticized a few of their calls, the three men learned to ignore criticism in the stands.
“I feel a lot of satisfaction watching a young player shoot the basketball and succeed,” said Schiliro, who still plays basketball himself. “I congratulate them and encourage them.”
“For every call I make in a game, half the people agree with me and half the people think I’m wrong,” added Wood, who refereed a few high school football games. and numerous girls’ state finals matches. Soccer flag.
From time to time, Schiliro and Wood receive compliments for their efforts.
“Just recently a relative approached me after a game and thanked me for my efforts to guide and encourage the players on the pitch,” Schiliro said.
“A lot of people came up to me afterwards and complimented me on my performance as a referee,” Wood said.
All three juggle busy playing schedules in any given season.
“During football season, I might have a freshman or junior varsity game on a Wednesday night, high school varsity games on Thursday and Friday nights, a youth football game on Saturday morning, and then a home game. from the FAU this Saturday night,” Wood said. .
“During basketball season, I officiate four or five games a week,” DeCosta added.
It certainly helps them to stay fit.
“As a basketball referee, it’s great exercise to run on the basketball court,” said Schiliro, who added recreational flag football and volleyball games to the list. of the sports he referees.
During the basketball season, Schiliro also works at all Keizer University men’s and women’s basketball games. There he works at the scorer’s table where he is in charge of the game clock, shot clock, home score book or scoreboard.
“I work over 50 basketball games a year for Keizer University and I’ve been doing this job for many years,” Schiliro said. “And I look at these college basketball umpires. They are good referees.
One of the reasons Wood and his fellow football officials hold college games on Thursday nights is because there aren’t enough qualified high school football officials to attend all of the traditionally held high school games. every Friday evening in the fall.
“We only have enough officials in Palm Beach County to work 12 high school varsity games on a Friday night,” said Wood, who also assigns football officials for the Western Communities Football League in Wellington. “Every Friday night we will have 17 or 18 games. Thus, some matches must be moved to Thursday evening. We need more men and women to become registered football officials for local recreational games on weekends, as well as freshman, JV and college games during the week.
DeCosta noted that working as a game official is not as easy as it seems.
“So many high school basketball fans watch NBA games on TV,” he said. “Pro basketball is totally different from high school basketball. A lot of fans think they know what we should or shouldn’t call it, but they don’t.
So the next time you attend a high school sporting event, you might see Schiliro, Wood, or DeCosta in black and white striped shirts with a whistle hanging from their necks. Then take the time to thank them for their time and effort.
In the meantime, if you’re interested, consider joining the ranks of high school sports officials.
They will be happy to have you join their team.