Referees work to hone skills at camp

Andrew Towne/Torrington Telegram Tyler Spear (rear) works with Southeast graduate Alex McIntyre at the camp last Friday.

TORRINGTON – Torrington, Southeast and Kelly Walsh high school football players were not the only ones learning and honing their craft last Friday at the practice fields at Wiseman Field. So were the game officials.

Between 20-25 officials from around the state of Wyoming took part in an official’s camp which included helping call the two scrimmages at the Blazer team camp last week.

“Officials who came to this camp came here on their own dime,” football official Tyler Spear said. “The camp itself was free, but the travel obviously costs money. These are officials who came from as far away as Worland and Lovell. That’s a long way to get better. It’s a pretty awesome testament to their commitment as officials.”

Spear has been taking part in these for several years and has recently taken on a major leadership role. Spear became Coordinator of Football Officials for the Wyoming High School Activities Association and has held the position for about a month.

His officiating resume includes six state championship games, including the 2020 Class 2A title game between Torrington and Lyman held at Wiseman Field. He also has worked postseason games in Iowa and Kentucky after graduating from college, and Spear attributed it to how well he was trained in the state of Wyoming.

There was two parts to the camp, which is put on by the WHSAA and led by Spear.

“As you know, there is a dearth of officials in the state, so the state is trying to use this camp as way to get people into it a little bit and improve the quality of the officials we have,” he said. “The other piece of it is, this camp, we call it a certification camp, meaning if an official wants to work the postseason, they need to attend this camp as part of their certification process.”

The camp is mandatory camp for those looking to officiate postseason games this fall, and it moved around the state, including being in Rock Springs last summer. This was not the first time Torrington had hosted the camp which has the goal of improving all facets of officiating.

“What it’s not is sitting down and reading the rule book or reading the mechanics manual and saying, ‘this is what you do if you are a referee or an umpire,’” Spear said. “We look at things that are very much common issues, and what we want to improve upon as a state.”

This summer, one areas of focus was offensive and defensive holdings.

“We know that rule exists and what it’s for, but have we taken the time to sit down and go, ‘Okay, this is what you are looking for, this is what you should call, this is what you shouldn’t call,’” Spear said. “We try to work with these officials to expand their viewpoint on what is and isn’t holding or pass interference. It’s really the deeper learning that we were after.”

The camp also helped groom new officials, including recent Southeast High School graduate Alex McIntyre.

“I refereed his last game as a player because Southeast went down at home to Wind River last fall,” Spear said. “To see this young man who I officiated then step into the ranks of sports officials, that’s a pretty cool feeling for me.”

McIntyre was one of a handful of new officials who took part in the camp.

“That’s exciting because this is typically a camp for all the old guys who want to check the box and keep getting playoff games, and to see a new generation come up and step in and see the game from the other standpoint, that’s pretty cool,” Spear said. “To see them hone that perspective, it was really rewarding for me, and it makes me smile because these are students-athletes I remember when they played on the gridiron and to see them come in and be a part of what keeps the game going for the next generation is pretty neat.”

With the widely publicized fact of the shortage of officials, not just in Wyoming, but the country as a whole, Spear encourages anyone who might be interested in officiating to take the leap and get involved.

“I would encourage people to give it a shot, even at the lowest level. I’m sure there is a youth league of some sort in Goshen County, and those kids need officials, and it goes all the way up to the high school ranks,” he said. “Even at that level where the game is very simple, our job is to make the keep kids safe and make the game fair. We can’t do that without officials.”

Spear said it provides a way to remain deeply connected with a sport which he loves.

“If people say they love football, and a lot of people really say that, if you truly love it try putting on the stripes because you’ll find a new and unique appreciation for the sport and what goes into it,” Spear said.

He was thankful to THS and the community for hosting the event again this summer.

“Coach (Russell) Stienmetz, THS, the Torrington community, they were wonderful hosts, and it makes it easy to come and do these camps when a community is willing to support you and feed you. It is for good reason we came to Torrington.”

Ultimately, the big takeaway from the camp for Spear was the officials desire to get better.

“It’s good to see officials wanting to get better,” Spear said. “There’s not a lot of us. We need to recruit more, but there are officials in this state who are committed to getting better. That’s why we were there.”