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How To Become a Football Official

Football has been hit especially hard by officiating shortages because it needs  the most officials, with 2-8 people on a crew for each game. Officials are also on the front lines of making football safer for youth and school-age participants, which is crucial to keeping the sport alive.

Things To Consider

Physical Demands

As a football official you will be constantly on your feet. Good vision is also essential because you may be watching the action from a distance and often at night. Quick reactions and speed are necessary, so you can get out of players’ way and move with the action to maintain good positioning to make calls. Football games take place predominantly in the fall, so in Minnesota, be prepared for cold and wet conditions frequently. As the players you’re officiating get older and the competitive levels increase, the physical demands also increase.

Mental Demands

Football officials work with more partners than most other sports, so depending on what position you’re working during a game, you will have different responsibilities. Being able to change focus and remember different rules and mechanics for each different position you may work is important. Teamwork is vital in football and your ability to work with and get along with others and take direction from your crew chief is vital to your success.

Training

Football requires officials to work at different positions around the playing field, each responsible for watching a different part of the action. To maximize your success, you’ll have to learn several of these positions well.  You can train yourself with rulebooks and manuals from the Referee Training Center, but you should also join a local officials association, such as RAOA, where you can expect real game education, demonstrations and exercises that will prepare you for what you’ll face.

 

Additionally, there are many camps offered during the Summer that will help you prepare.

Gear

  • Predominantly black athletic shoes, preferably cleated.

  • Black socks.

  • Black pants and a black belt.

  • Collared striped shirt, both short and long sleeves.

  • A fitted black hat with white piping (Referees wear a white hat with no piping but you won’t start at that position.)

  • Officiating tools: flags, down indicator, beanbag, information cards, pencil, whistle, lanyard, chain clip, sports watch with timer, signal card, ball pressure tester.

Estimated cost: $275. Once you join local officiating association, such as RAOA, there may be veteran officials who are willing to give or sell you “hand–me–downs” to help you get geared up at a reduced cost.

Here is a link for to a few online retailers.  Please note, RAOA is not affiliated with any of the them, they are simply suggestions for gear and clothing

Game Fees

Game fees vary widely based on the players’ age group, and competitive level The fees range from $50-$75 for youth games and $115 for competitive high school games.  A football official working youth, and high school games, with a full schedule, can make several hundred dollars per week outside their normal jobs. College officials make more and game fees increase with the level of competition. Many high level college officials and professional officials do not have other jobs, and live on their officiating income.

When you're ready to become an official, head on over to RAOA application page and fill out the form.  You'll be glad you did!