Evanston Township High School students will be able to “call ’em like they see ’em” once the school begins its proposed new course in Sports Officiating Certification next fall.

Throwing a penalty flag, calling balls and strikes, and issuing a yellow card will all be in the curriculum, which also includes learning a lot of rules, interpersonal skills, and how to stay in charge.

Assistant Superintendent Pete Bavis told the District 202 school board earlier this month that this is a “pretty exciting opportunity for students to learn how to manage players on the field, also coaches, and sometimes, unfortunately, parents.”

Besides earning course credit, students will become certified by the Illinois High School Association to officiate actual school sports, not just kiddie rec league games.

Plus, Bavis noted, when they become refs or umps, the course graduates “will be paid well.”

High school sports officials are very much in need.

“There is an officiating crisis across Illinois and in the country,” Bavis said.

Sports Illustrated recently investigated the shortage of whistleblowers, concluding that “High school games are being moved off Friday nights in many areas of the country because there aren’t enough officiating crews, necessitating Thursday and Saturday games — which in turn require some officials to work three days a week to cover the shortfall.”

SI concluded that the biggest reason officials are leaving is due to loud-mouthed fans, coaches, and moms and dads heaping verbal abuse from the sidelines or the stands.

So, developing personal toughness may be just as important for a budding sports official as knowing the minutiae of the rulebook.

The other proposed new courses for Fall 2024 are Digital Drawing and Painting, Introduction to Life Sciences, and Zoology: Animals and Society.

The two science classes will let students earn dual credit at Oakton College.

ETHS Superintendent Marcus Campbell told the board that this semester 335 students are enrolled in dual credit ETHS/Oakton classes, versus 181 last year, setting an all-time record for the high school.

The four new courses are expected to be approved by the ETHS board in October.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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