Fruit Belt 'Interacts' to Recruit Officials

August 27, 2014

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

The MHSAA always is seeking creative ideas for recruiting some of the most important people in high school athletics – officials to preside over the games. 

The Fruit Belt Officials Association once again hosted an interactive recruitment booth at the Berrien County Youth Fair, staffed by volunteers from the membership.

Freddy Krieger, who coordinated the project for the FBOA, says the outreach effort enabled the group to connect with people outside the athletic community who otherwise likely wouldn’t have known the organization existed.

“There are a lot of people in our area who said, ‘I always wanted to (officiate), but I didn’t know how to start,’” he said. “I heard it from people when I manned the booth myself.”

A longtime basketball official, Krieger, who has also worked soccer and baseball, believes it’s vital that officials associations actively search for new members, rather than waiting for prospects to come to them.

“The average age of officials in the state of Michigan is 48,” he says. “There are a number of us in the association who say, ‘We’ve got to replace ourselves.’”

The display includes flat screen TV monitors with video loop of games in a variety of sports, “Ask the Official” opportunities for the public to find answers to their rules questions, FBOA and MHSAA logos, and an “interest box” where prospective officials can leave contact information.

The booth attracted 43 individuals who totaled 71 officiating preferences in six sports. Krieger reported that a year ago the booth cultivated 108 prospective officials – 23 interested for basketball, 22 baseball, 17 softball, 16 football, 13 volleyball, seven wrestling and 10 soccer prospects.

All prospects are invited to the FBOA general meeting in September, and contact information is forwarded to sport-specific trainers and contact people who diligently follow up to involve them in orientation, training, and integration as officials in various sports.

Individuals from previous years also are re-invited.

“Sometimes it takes a year or two – or even three – to get someone to make the kind of commitment it takes to become integrated into our avocation and submit to the required training,” Krieger said.

From MSP Post to Postgame: Lieutenants Return to the (Football) Field

September 27, 2023

While fans are settling into another season, Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs has been fully immersed in football for months.

The Jackson Post’s assistant post commander serves as assistant coach for Jackson High School’s varsity football team and for the team at Parkside Middle School.

“I started coaching when my older son was in youth sports, as a way to do something together that we both love,” Gibbs said. “My younger son followed the same path, so I joined his team too. I grew up in Jackson and am grateful to be able to serve my hometown from the sidelines and at our post.”

Lt. Mark Giannunzio officiates at the high school and college levels.Some 400 miles north, Lt. Mark Giannunzio is also a familiar face in and on the field. The MSP Negaunee Post assistant post commander and Eighth District public information officer enforces the rules of the game as a high school and college football official, the latter for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“I started at the high school level to stay involved in athletics and make authentic connections in the community,” Giannunzio said. “It’s rewarding to help teach the game and share knowledge of the rules. I currently have a full 11-game schedule in the GLIAC Division II college conference, with high school games interspersed during the year.”

The correlation among coaching, officiating and policing translates.

“With my fellow troopers, I want to inspire, motivate and encourage to get the most out of them,” Gibbs said. “I take the same approach with my players to figure out what they need from me, as their designated leader, to be as successful as they can. In both capacities, I do the work alongside them. We do it together.”

This approach is especially important when tough times surface. Lieutenant Gibbs’ high school team experienced tragedy right before its first game when a player died in a car crash.

“We focused on adversity,” said Gibbs, who was in a unique position to talk from a police perspective too. “It’s a benefit to have that insight and background and share it with what they can control – make good decisions and wear your seatbelt.”

Lieutenant Gibbs incorporates his coworkers when he can, like during spring conditioning when fellow troopers join him and his players, helping all involved to make new connections and build strong bonds between the students and officers.

Gibbs also coaches at Jackson Parkside Middle School.“One of the most important attributes in both careers is communication,” Giannunzio said. “Communication can make or break an official and a police officer. Much like selling a citation to a motorist, I need to be able to sell the penalty in a calm and professional manner. Demeanor and attitude go together on both the football field and when we are out patrolling in the Blue Goose.”

Treating everyone with dignity and respect is something Lieutenants Gibbs and Giannunzio commit to as members of a modern police agency and in their areas of expertise on the football field.

“Both roles afford so many opportunities to develop culture and cultivate teamwork,” Gibbs said. “The best part is watching others flourish and playing a part in their growth.”

PHOTOS (Top) Michigan State Police Lt. Tedric Gibbs, left, serves as an assistant football coach for the Jackson High varsity. (Middle) Lt. Mark Giannunzio officiates at the high school and college levels. (Below) Gibbs also coaches at Jackson Parkside Middle School. (Photos provided by the Michigan State Police.)