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Fairfield hosts Montana’s first junior officiating clinic

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Posted at 3:16 PM, Mar 20, 2023

FAIRFIELD — With a nationwide shortage of officials, sporting events have been forced to reschedule or just flat out cancel. The situation will only worsen as tons of current officials are nearing their retirement point.

Fairfield athletic director Mike Schmidt put together the first junior officiating clinic with intent to gain youth interest in becoming officials.

“We were worried about this, if kids would show up,” said Mike. “We had to cap it actually. We wanted 30 and 33 came out so we capped it.”

Schmidt was able to pull kids from Power, Shelby and Anaconda for the clinic by reaching out to coaches and athletic directors who also want a solution to the shortage in referees. Eleven MOA officials came out to volunteer as mentors to the children looking to learn more about officiating. Although these officials get the plus of knowing they’ll be relieved by younger referees when it comes time to retire, they also came out just to give back to the community.

“I think it’s true for all the officials here. We love the sport, most of us played high school and some played college, and we just love to give back,” said eight-year MOA official Kody Lambert.

For the children, especially the ones currently playing basketball, they were introduced to another perspective of the game. In the midst of a game, it is easy to blame an official for what you may think is a bad call, but now they get the opportunity to learn about those calls and it could help avoid them during their next game.

“I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to separate being a ref from a player because when I’m a player,. I am not paying attention to what they are doing,” said 15-year old Izabel Leach. “I’m asking them, ‘Were is my travel, where is my foul?’ But now I have to call it and it is very confusing.”

The clinic proved to have served its purpose because some children, like 13-year old Karson Dede, agreed that officiating is something he can see himself doing in the future.

“I feel like it would be because I like basketball a lot and it’s going to be pretty hard to go professional. You might as well stick to what you like and reffing is another way of doing that,” he said.