CEDAR RAPIDS — The men in the room ranged from recent high school graduates to grandfathers. But they had one thing in common, however, a love of football.
Led by Bill Yeisley and Cal Norris, Thursday’s Cedar Rapids Athletic Officials Association meeting was the first step for those interested in becoming a certified CRAOA and Iowa High School Athletic Association football official for the 2018 fall season.
Yeisley has been involved in CRAOA for 52 years. This is Norris’ ninth year of officiating.
The most important rule of the CRAOA is established in bold letters overview packet: “The game is for the kids — not the coach or the officials.”
Ron Pfeiffer, a CRAOA officer, told the new recruits “I never played football in high school. You don’t need to worry about that. But all the same, officiating has become a big part of my life, and I always find myself waiting for those Friday night lights.”
The men all spoke about those “Friday night lights” as if they had some sort of magical quality — and for them, they do.
“Don’t go into officiating for the money,” Norris said. “You’re not going to make a lot. You’ll get back what you spend, maybe make a couple hundred more, but you’ve got to do this for the love of the game, and a want to spread that passion to others.”
Norris was a football player himself, and right after college he moved on to coaching. Soon, work took over, and he had to choose between football and his career.
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“It isn’t really a lesser time commitment than coaching, but rather more on your own time,” Norris said. “You study when you can, but you’ve got to fit it in. There’s games and meetings, but the flexible part is that you’re not at 3:30 or 4 o’clock practice every day.
“Either way, you’re on that field, and you’re providing these kids with the opportunity to play.”
For anyone interested in becoming a football official this season, time is running out. Training with Norris and Yeisley starts Monday at 6:30 p.m. Contact Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or (319) 573-0053 or Yeisley at (319) 560-1079.