In college, few students are given the chance to continue their sports careers they once had throughout high school. Officiating and playing intramural sports is a way that students and alumni are able to stay connected to their beloved sports and other new sports as well.
Ryan O’Lear, an alumnus of Youngstown State University, offers a class one night a week to prepare students for the official basketball certification exam offered by Ohio High School Athletic Association.
“Next year, I am trying to get connected to YSU to have my class go towards a college credit,” O’Lear said.
O’Lear has had much experience with officiating and has refereed high school, NCAA and NBA games for over 15 years.
“I am able to train anyone to become an official for basketball, but it takes a certain cut of a person to be able to deal with the public, and people must possess strong conflict resolution skills,” he said.
O’Lear and three assistants work one-on-one with students to make them stronger officials, giving them mentor figures to relate to and to look to for guidance.
The class covers all of the fundamentals of basketball — from rules and policies to dealing with unhappy fans. O’Lear uses his connections in the officiating network to recommend his students for jobs once they complete the course.
Dominic DeFelice, who has been involved as a student intramural official for four years, is one of many students on campus who choose intramurals as a way to stay in shape, to gain experience in the field and to make friends that also share a love for the game.
“When I first came to YSU, my sister gave me the idea and really pushed me into intramurals, because she knew how much I loved sports,” he said. “I think, for the most part, high school athletes can stay active and connected if you weren’t able to play in college.”
Joe Conroy, coordinator of intramural sports and programs and facilities, said intramural sports have doubled in popularity since last year.
“We had 74 teams this time last year. This year, we have 131 teams and 885 participants,” Conroy said.
The Andrews Recreation and Wellness Center hires 16-18 referees each season to officiate sports such as flag football, co-rec soccer, co-rec volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, dodgeball, racquetball, pingpong, badminton, three-on-three basketball and three-on-three volleyball in the spring.
Conroy said that the intramural program is great experience for students to learn the basics of officiating to prepare them for high school and mid-American games in the future.
“Once you get into the system, we do rigorous evening trainings, scrimmages and we educate them the best way we can. We throw them in there because the best way to learn is to make mistakes,” Conroy said.
As well as staying active by officiating the games, students are able to participate on the same fields as some of the YSU teams. Next semester, the recreational soccer teams will be able to play on the new Farmers National Bank Field.
“The officials really take it seriously, they want to be the best that they can be,” Conroy said.
The class is offered at Newton Falls High School on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m.