Umpire's Heart Healed, Back in the Game

April 4, 2017

By Mike Spencer
Special for Second Half

Ken Allen can’t wait to say the words “Play Ball!’ today.

Weather permitting, the Traverse City softball umpire is expected to be behind the plate at Kingsley this afternoon after missing all of the spring season last year due to a heart double by-pass surgery.

“I’m sure It’s going to be exciting,” said Allen, a 32-year MHSAA umpire, basketball and football referee. “Especially after taking a year off from softball.

“But once the game gets started and you make that first call, it’s going to be right back to the old business.”

Allen, who has hardly missed a game since Dick Simon recruited him to officiate in 1985, was glad he went to his primary care physician after he noticed he was slowing down at the end of the 2015-16 boys and girls basketball season.

Allen’s doctor did an EKG and referred him to a heart surgeon, where he underwent a cardiac catheterization. Before the visit with the heart specialist was over, Allen was wheeled up to the second floor for heart surgery.

“It changed things, but I keep telling everybody that the man above gave me a second chance and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Allen, who was told he’d need at least three months to recuperate. “It was hard to be idle.”

Ken is an ‘old school’ die hard,” said Barb Beckett, a charter member of the Northern Sports Officials Association, former officiating partner and assignor. “He is an assignor’s dream because he will go anywhere, work any level, and anytime.  

“It was tough on him missing the last part of the basketball season and entire softball season. He makes a difference every time he steps on the court or the field."

Allen, who has officiated two MHSAA Finals in softball and another in football, never thought about retiring after his double by-pass on March 3, 2016.

“I never had a thought about quitting, and I don’t have a plan to retire,” Allen said. “I’m going to go as long as I can.

“When I can’t give the kids a full 100 percent, it’ll be time to get out.”

Allen had a clean bill of health to officiate football last fall, but he missed two weeks of the season after having his gall bladder removed. He then went on to work the entire boys and girls basketball season, which ended last month.

“Ken has always been a very hard-working official, and it’s no surprise to anyone that he has worked so hard to get back on the field and court,” said MHSAA assistant director Mark Uyl, the association’s coordinator of officiating. “Ken always had a true passion for officiating, and this passion has helped him recover and has been a source of motivation to get healthy and rehab so he can return to the competitive arena.”

Uyl said life-threatening illnesses and injuries often send veteran officials into early retirement.

“For many other officials, what Ken endured would have meant retirement or the end of their career, certainly in a sport like basketball,” Uyl said. “It shows how important working with the kids and schools is to Ken that he’s persevered so hard to get back.”


Allen also officiated baseball until the day he lost a coin flip and had to leave his softball game because no one showed up at the baseball field. His softball partner Tom Post tooted his horn departing after two quick softball games and Allen was still in the bottom half of his opener.

Although Allen has officiated two MHSAA softball championship games, football is his No. 1 sport.  He worked a 2003 MHSAA Final as the umpire.

“When I first started out, I was on the chains,” said Allen, who played freshman football at Clio High and ran track and cross country. “Then I decided that I wanted to get in the middle where the action is. I really love it.”

Allen’s taken a few knocks in the middle of the football field, even suffered a couple of concussions. But until the heart double by-pass, he was always able to get back up on his feet without hardly missing a down.

“Ken is a great official because he’s got such good people skills,” Uyl said. “The officiating business is a ‘people business’ first and foremost, and this is why this has been such a great fit for Ken for the past 30-plus years.  The MHSAA and all member schools are thrilled to have Ken back!”

Author Mike Spencer is a MHSAA registered official in boys and girls basketball and soccer. He spent more than three decades as a newspaperman before becoming a marketing communications specialist two years ago.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ken Allen, a 32-year veteran official from Traverse City, shows off his most memorable moment in high school officiating with photos and items he received after doing a 2003 MHSAA Finals assignment. (Middle) Allen kneels behind the plate; today he’ll return to action for the first time after heart surgery. 

Be the Referee: Soccer Offsides or Goal?

By Paige Winne
MHSAA Marketing & Social Media Coordinator

May 23, 2023

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Soccer Offsides or Goal? - Listen

Today we’re on the soccer field for another You Make the Call.

Team A has a throw-in near midfield. Team A’s No. 9 is clearly in an offside position when the throw-in comes directly to her. She collects the ball and kicks it past the keeper and into the goal. What’s the call?

Should the referee:

► Award an indirect free kick to Team B?

► Award a goal kick to Team B?

► Award a re-take of the throw-in to Team A?

► Award a goal to Team A?

If you said, "Award a goal to Team A" … you are correct, despite the goal-scorer being in a clear offsides position.

The soccer rulebook states that a player shall not be penalized for offsides if she receives the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. It’s a legal play – and counts as a goal.

Previous Editions:

May 16: Track & Field Exchange Zones - Listen
May 9: Girls Lacrosse Self-Start - Listen
May 2: Baseball/Softball Overthrow - Listen
April 25: Fifth-Quarter/Third-Half Rule - Listen
April 18: Soccer Referee in Play? - Listen
April 11: Softball Strikeout - Listen
March 14: Basketball Instant Replay - Listen
March 7: Hockey Overtime - Listen
Feb. 28: Baker Bowling - Listen
Feb. 21: Ski Finish - Listen
Feb. 14: Swimming Touchpads - Listen
Feb. 7: In or Out-of-Bounds in Wrestling - Listen
Jan. 31: Over the Back - Listen
Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End ZoneListen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change
- Listen

PHOTO: An official raises his flag during this spring's Trenton/Pontiac Notre Dame Prep game. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)