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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)
Over the past 15-20 years, wireless technology has found its way into our lives in many forms.
We've seen it in smartphones, computers and even at football stadiums of all sizes.
One place it had not yet made it until recently was to the high school officials on the football field in the Abilene chapter.
This year, however, even that has changed. Before the season, every official in the chapter received walkie-talkies to make communicating with each other easier and to help speed up the games by keeping the officials from having to huddle to discuss each penalty.
Reactions on the change depend on which official you ask.
"The only thing I like about it is if you have a penalty on someone and a play keeps going, you might forget the number. It's easier to remember and report it to the white hat," veteran official Ronnie Hargis said. "Maybe it speeds up the game, but your mechanics are still the same. It's just the communication is a little bit faster."
Bruce Jones, another veteran official in the Abilene chapter, is a fan of the switch.
"It's easier and it's all about communication and (helps) everyone on the field know what's going on," Jones said. "It helps on mechanics, penalties, who's looking at what and who's doing what. It's a help when you can hear it."
Katie Gore, the lone female official in Abilene, is in her second year of calling games. She took a more humorous approach.
"I don't mind having it, but it does take me longer to get ready," Gore said. "I have to wire this thing up, put my makeup on and earrings and now this earpiece."
Gore was able to laugh about it because she is still learning the ropes as an official — despite her father, Brett McCracken, having decades of experience calling games.
She said the technology has helped in the aspect of communicating with the coaches.
"When coaches are asking about calls, I don't have to run on the field and scream questions," she said. "The communication with each other and the coaches is better. It's only my second year so I hadn't gotten used to one way or the other, but I like it."
Hargis said when it comes to talking to the coaches and relaying who the penalty was on, it's the head referee's call to report the guilty party to the appropriate sideline official.
The switch to the wireless communication devices is not without its flaws.
"It's just something else that we have to mess with," Hargis said. "We have a bean bag, a flag, a whistle, a pencil and now we have to key a microphone. If the referee has a stadium microphone, he has to make sure that he doesn't key the wrong one."
The officials also are responsible for keeping up with the radio equipment during the season and, should they misplace it, are responsible for replacing it.
Jones said one hindrance is only having only one earpiece with the radios.
"If there are multiple people talking, all you hear is a garbled mess. The issue I have is keeping the earpiece in my ear," he said. "These are $20 radios. The concern was that someone would be able to hear us or there would be bleed over from someone else (not on the crew)."
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