Without officials, it's just recess!
Contest Officials and the TSSAA
Sports officials are independent contractors that enter into agreements to officiate contests at all different levels of competition. These contracts are normally between the official and the school hosting the contest. For state championships, TSSAA hires the officials needed to conduct the tournaments.
Local associations of officials were formed for the purposes of education and training as well as to work with the clients in their area (in this case local member schools) to secure officials for their contests. Each association conducts evaluations and schedules regular meetings to further the development of both new and veteran officials. Associations send representatives to TSSAA meetings to help ensure that officiating is as consistent as possible across all parts of the state.
Many years ago, TSSAA member schools agreed to only hire officials registered with TSSAA for their contests. Maintaining an active registration with TSSAA means that an official meets certain basic requirements such as attending required meetings and passing state-mandated background checks.
Pay for officials working regular season varsity contests is set by the TSSAA Board of Control for competitive reasons. You can see a chart outlining the fee structure on the TSSAA website. Fees for junior varisty, B-Team, freshman and middle school fees are not set by TSSAA and are negotiable with the local officials' association.
How do I get started?
First, read through the TSSAA Regulations for Registered Officials and then identify the officials' association that serves the sport and geographic area in which you would like to officiate. Supervisors with each association will answer any questions you have and help you find the best fit.
The next step is to register! TSSAA and all officials' associations use an online system from ArbiterSports to manage registration and assigning of officials. Registration opens June 1 of each year.
Being a Successful Official
Contrary to what many spectators believe, first-time officials are not assigned varsity games right away. Be prepared to devote considerable time and energy to becoming a good official. You may have seen many officials at contests, but you may not be aware that they probably had a meeting before that contest to discuss specific topics, had many group meetings with other officials during the course of the year, had written required rules examinations, attended a required rules interpretation meeting... so on and so forth. As in most human endeavors, you improve according to your efforts.
It is always difficult to go from being an athlete, perhaps one that is looked up to by other students and fans, to an official whom some people seem to believe can do nothing right. It is important to understand that the basic ingredient of officiating is that of being a decision maker, and sometimes the decisions won't please everybody. Once you clear this hurdle and realize that people will criticize you because you make necessary decisions rather than because you are a bad person and you can accept this fact, you are on your way. It is not easy.
Officials play a very significant role in the success of interscholastic athletic programs. If you are ready to accept the challenge and move into this realm, we welcome you. If not, perhaps you now have a better understanding and appreciation of the official. If you can't join our ranks now, perhaps you will be able to sometime in the future. It's your call to make.