Training the officials
There are scores of training programs designed to teach athletes how to move effectively and with less risk of injury. What makes a set of movement-focused workshops hosted by two Roanoke College professors and athletic training experts so remarkable is that they are not meant for the players; they're designed for the referees.
The idea came to Jim Buriak, chairman of the Health and Human Performance Department and program director for Roanoke's athletic training major, when a local man working as an NFL official was injured on the job and needed physical rehabilitation to get back on the field.
"I started working with him on the rehabilitation," Buriak said. "As part of that, we started working on movement patterns that he needed to become a better official."
The referee told Buriak that he had never before worked on movement patterns.
Buriak was surprised to discover that even at the highest level of professional sports, officials were not coached in movement. He decided to involve Dr. John Creasy, an associate professor of Health and Human Performance at Roanoke, with his idea to train sports officials.
"The expectation on sporting officials is that they be able to run with the athletes and to act as athletes on the field, but they've never been taught how to move," Creasy said.
Buriak and Creasy approached the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and began working with football officials in "Efficiency of Movement" workshops.
The pair developed similar workshops for lacrosse, which took them to the 2009 National Lacrosse Conference in Baltimore, Md., where they gave a presentation to more than 400 lacrosse officials.
A joint convention of national athletic conferences - including the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, and the Big 10 - in Providence, R.I. in 2010 also invited Buriak and Creasy to speak to another 500 officials.
They have taken Health and Human Performance students to Baltimore, Rhode Island and Philadelphia to assist in conducting the workshops, allowing them to also gain hands-on experience.
Buriak and Creasy plan to continue their football and lacrosse workshops and have been asked by the chairman of the Ivy League Athletic Conference to hold workshops for basketball officials.
"It's really snowballed since the days when it was just one NFL official," Buriak said.
-John Camacho '12