A note about the photo: Jerome “Bobby” Zampelle (left) was a highly respected official for nearly 50 years and this summer was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame. He passed away last month at the age of 92

It’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t come with any days off and there are no special sales surrounding it.

However this week has been designated as Official’s Appreciation Week by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Student Ambassadors which is comprised of student-athletes from across the state.

In an effort to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the efforts of the more than 7,500 registered officials in the state the Student Ambassadors will select one week during each season to show their appreciation for the men and women who wear black and white stripes and blow whistles.

This is in response to what is now a nationwide problem and that is a shortage of qualified officials with the main reason for that being poor behavior by parents,  other spectators and even participants which more and more has led to ugly confrontations.  If you’re a sports fan then you know even with replay and slow motion you often have a difficult time telling whether a player crossed the goal line, committed a foul in the penalty box, traveled with a basketball or was out at first base.

However for the most part high school officials don’t have that luxury and have to make a call when the action is at full-speed.  Of course they are wrong at times but there is no condoning the verbal assaults sometimes leveled against them by adults who should certainly know better.

When you consider that officiating high school sports is a part-time job that does not pay a lot of money the motivation by most of them is simply “the love of the game” and their priority is to make sure the game is played in a fair and safe manner.  It doesn’t mean some might not live up to that but again that would be a very small percentage.

Among the suggestions for this week by the NJSIAA Student Ambassadors is that team captains designate one game to give special thanks to the officials working that game.  This could include presenting them with a certificate of appreciation or a thank you card, providing them with refreshments, introducing them at the game or other small tokens of their appreciation.  Even a small gesture would carry meaning because without officials there is no game.

I personally have strong relationships with many of them and have been honored for many years to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the end of season banquet hosted by the basketball officials from the shore area.

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