CEDAR RAPIDS - Earlier this season, a reporter asked Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross about the #x201c;triple crown#x201d; of prep tennis.
At the time, Gross dismissed the thought of winning a state championship in singles, dou ... »
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Imagine 50 years of head shakes and eye rolls from athletes. Or 50 years of calls questioned by coaches.
Imagine 50 years of overbearing parents screaming insults.
For Jim Patterson of Cedar Rapids, it’s been 50 fantastic years.
“I’ve enjoyed it all,” said Patterson, one of 11 men honored for a half century of service at the IHSAA’s 23rd annual Officials Recognition Banquet and Awards Ceremony at the Iowa Events Center.
Patterson officiated football for 37 years, landing nine state championship games. He still considers himself a football official first, even though he’s been working track and field meets for 40 years — and still working them today.
“My time to retire is getting closer,” he said last week while driving to Des Moines to work the Drake Relays.
He said he’s worked with and met some great people over the years — coaches and other officials.
But it’s the athletes who keep him working.
“I love being around kids,” he said. “It keeps you young.”
Not surprisingly, he’s seen lots of changes, too. He said athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. The way games are officiated are different, too. When he started working football, three officials called the game. When he retired in 2004, there were five. There now are two starters at all track meets.
But some things haven’t changed.
“The kids are the same, the coaches are the same,” he said. “(The coaches) are people who want to win, people who care about the kids.”
And those parents? Patterson hesitated when asked, then referred to an article in last week’s Gazette by correspondent and youth sports advocate Nancy Justis that, basically, told parents to “simmer down.”
“That was very to the point,” he said, adding “I’ve always been very big on sportsmanship.
“We have become too specialized. We don’t give kids a chance to become creative” in a variety of sports.
He’s seen some of the best athletes in Eastern Iowa, too, and worked some great games. He noted an Iowa City High-Bettendorf football playoff game when Tim Dwight was leading the Little Hawks and noted “any time you get a chance to work a state championship game, that’s a big highlight.”
But one of his favorite events is Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s annual coed track and field meet, now known as the Draxton-Stiers/Wilkinson Invitational after coaches Dudley Draxton, Al Stiers and Harold Wilkinson.
“Three great people,” Patterson said. “They meant a lot to me.”
Patterson, too, has meant a lot to a lot of people.
In addition to his officiating, he was a physical education teacher at Coolidge Elementary and “coached everything” at Taft Middle School, where he started the softball program and also coached football, basketball and baseball.
James Wood of Center Point was another of the 50-year honorees. And there were several other area honorees, as well, including Daniel Thomas of Cedar Rapids as one of five “aspiring new officials,” Patrick Pacha of Washington (Iowa) as softball official of the year and Chris Oberbroeckling of Marion as baseball official of the year.
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