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Boardman program helps train officials

Senior receives $500 grant from nonprofit to pursue career goal

BOARDMAN — High school senior Braeden Pugh said he would like to become an official in the sports world and because of a $500 grant he received from a nonprofit, he’s well on his way to meeting that career goal.

Pugh is one of the first winners of the award from RefReps and a nonprofit group called “Save Our Sport.” According to the RefReps social media page, Pugh and two other grant winners could use this money for training, equipment and other support resources.

According to Boardman school officials, the high school started a sports officiating pilot class at a time when referees are calling it quits at historic rates.

“This trend is drastically affecting both high school and youth sports,” said Amy Radinovic, communications coordinator for Boardman Local Schools. “Braeden is among a small group of students trying it (the pilot class) out. ”

According to Brian Ladner, high school health / phys-ed teacher who is instructing the class, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has gone away from in-person classes that for years had been the way people would get started in becoming high school sports officials.

“We based our class on the OHSAA’s preference, the RefReps program, which is a really engaging, informative and inclusive sports officiating education curriculum,” Ladner said.

Ladner, who also is involved in sports officiating, said that Boardman is one of three school districts in northeast Ohio that he knows of that are offering the training in the RefRep program. The others are Massillon Jackson High School in Stark County and Grand Valley High School in Orwell (Ashtabula County).

So far, Ladner said, five Boardman students have had the opportunity to officiate in some capacity.

Pugh has been among those participating as a referee in the Mill Creek Recreational Flag Football and Soccer league each Saturday at the James A. Wick Recreation Center.

“They are gaining a ton of experience while doing it, and making a good amount of money. Two of the students are also umpiring baseball games during the week in surrounding communities,” Ladner said.

Next year, the high school plans to make sports officiating a semester class, school officials said.

Students will not be required to get certified in each sport if they don’t want to. However, all students will still be learning how to officiate football, volleyball, and soccer in part of the fall semester and then the winter / spring sports in the second semester. Part of the training they will get is in class work where they will officiate small-sided games between their classmates, where they work on gaining confidence in their abilities and managing conflict between their peers before being thrown out into a real game setting.

Students then put what they learn into action by participating in practice / scrimmage settings and work youth games to hone mechanics and get a true feel for the game. It is required students officiate two real games in a local recreation or community league setting.

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