LESSONS BEYOND THE GAMES
It’s Worth the Wait
“I’ve officiated football and volleyball since 1978 and worked the volleyball state finals in 1994, even though my self‑evaluation had me as a better football official. Then after working football for 32 years, I finally made it to the football state finals in 2010. … I can truly say that the experience was worth the wait and a memory I will cherish for a long time.
“You get a notification about two to three weeks in advance of the game, so the anticipation is high as is the preparation. It is something that you prepare for every year. And while we had done local televised games, even live broadcasts, that game seemed to be bigger than all the others. For me personally, it was a great thrill and memory maker.”
Ted Lepucki, 63, Arlington Heights, Ill., has officiated high school volleyball and football since 1978. He worked the boys’ state volleyball finals in 1994, ’95, ’96 and the football 7A state championship in 2010, and 5A championship in 2014.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
“At my age, people assume that I don’t know a whole lot about being a football official. However, they are surprised to find out that I have been an official in some fit, form or function for 10 years. Yes, that means that I have officiated football while playing in high school (worked youth games on weekends). I want to thank my dad, as he was a big part in helping me along the way. As a result, I worked my first varsity game under the Friday night lights when I was 18 years old, as a freshman in college.”
Joseph Maccario, 24,Charleston, S.C., has been officiating football for 10 years.
Go With What You Know
“I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it happened early in my professional career. I had just blown the whistle in the middle of a tough MLS game. The crowd was screaming, the players were yelling — all because a nasty, nasty tackle had just happened.
“I recall thinking about what all my ‘bosses’ wanted and I was frozen. ‘Can I manage this?’ or ‘Should I send the player off?’ or ‘Should I …’ At the end of the game, I reviewed the video and it was clear. It was a red card that needed to be handled with confidence and clarity — not indecision and delay. It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to not worry about what others wanted, but go with what I knew and be decisive about it.”
Michael Illingworth, 52, Fresno, Calif., has been officiating football for 10 years, nine at varsity level.
It’s Not Just a Game
“I do all levels of umpiring from NCAA Division I to youth rec baseball. It’s very hard as a college official to go to a PONY or AAU field and have the same enthusiasm for sometimes pretty badly played games. Doing a 12‑year‑old AAU game one day, which was about 22‑1 in the last of the fifth, I couldn’t wait to get out of there for a 10‑run mercy rule game.
“A kid comes up for the last out. He is clearly a bench player, maybe never even batted that year. My zone was huge and I rung him up on a curve about a foot outside. There was uproar from the parents and bench. I was amazed and wanted to say, ‘It’s 22‑1. Are you guys kidding me?’ Turns out I was told later he was a special needs kid maybe not fully disabled but mildly autistic, and that was his only at bat for the year. I learned then that maybe every at bat does count to somebody, maybe every game does count, if not so much to us sometimes.”
Fran Nowadly, 50, Moyock, N.C., has been umpiring baseball since 1996. He began umpiring at the youth level and is currently working high school and college games, including NCAA Division I games.