Professors Guide Football officials
An elite athlete is given proper training, week after week, to ensure that they execute their sport of choice in a way that minimizes risk and maximizes performance. Now consider the officials running alongside those elite competitors, expected week after week to follow the movement of the games up and down the field so they can properly officiate. The movement expected of them is similar. But one thing is not. The athletes are trained rigorously to ensure their safety. The officials, however, are expected to just move-never being told if one way is better than another or if there is a way they can improve their own performance.
This training on movement was something only athletes acquired, until Dr. John Creasy and Mr. Jim Buriak got involved. The two professors from the Health and Human Performance department at Roanoke College started conducting workshops on the efficiency of movement to teach officials how to move properly so they could work efficiently, prevent injury and move without thinking.
The idea came about when Buriak worked on rehabilitation with a National Football League official who got injured. The pair worked on movement skills, and Buriak helped the officials get back to work. After realizing how training be beneficial, Buriak made a proposal to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference to conduct a workshop.
Word spread about the programs. and Buriak and Creasy started getting requests for similar education to be provided in other conferences, including the Big East, the Patriot Conference, the Big Ten and high school leagues, among others.
Creasy and Buriak always work together on the clinics, which range from one to two hours. They are sometimes just presentations but often include gauging where officials currently stand with things like weight and body composition and then moving to the field to do different drills. There are typically somewhere between 100 and 300 participants at each conference. "The workshops are important because the officials have expectations and need to be trained," Buriak said.
Creasy explains that conducting the sessions is fun, especially with groups like the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 10. "You see the same officials every weekend. and it is rewarding to see the work that we are doing transfer to the field."
The duo hopes to by add other prominent football conferences in the future to expand on the work they are doing with conferences and leagues.
Buriak says that there are practical things learned in the sessions with officials, which can be brought back to the classroom at the College. "It transfers from classroom to field and from field to classroom," Buriak said. "Students benefit from these."
Not only do students benefit from the work Creasy and Buriak do out of the classroom, they can get directly involved. Buriak explains that students travel to the clinics and help conduct them. Buriak and Creasy actually were unable to attend the one ODAC conference, but instead of canceling, they sent students to run the seminar for them.
"Helping at the workshops helps students realize career interests because this is what strength and conditioning coaches do on a daily basis," Creasy said.
Student Jim Buriak '12, a sport management major, can attest to the knowledge gained from student involvement in the clinics. "Getting to help out was a great experience. I actually helped to run drills with officials and gained experience working with many different types of people."