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Ref's Death Raises Questions About Fitness of Officials

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Copyright 2013 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)
September 11, 2013 Wednesday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 1C
544 words
Officials' fitness up to them;
No testing is done to determine whether a referee is in shape.
By Jeff Greer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Jerry Lohmann trotted up and down the field at Olympic Heights High three Fridays ago, officiating another game in his 10-year career as a respected referee in Palm Beach County.

Then, during the second quarter, he collapsed and died.

He was 73, but he was also one of the fittest referees in the East Coast Football Officials Association (ECFOA), which provides officials for county games.

Lohmann's death prompted questions about the physical requirements for referees officiating high school football games.

The short answer: It is the responsibility of each referee to stay fit, which by all accounts is exactly what Lohmann did.

Neither the Florida High School Athletic Association nor the Palm Beach County School District requires stress tests or other fitness-related exams for its officials. Both organizations expect the regional referee associations to handle those matters.

The ECFOA, for instance, has physical training instructors speak each offseason about preparing for the season. Several officials themselves are trainers, too.

"They go through all the eating right and drinking right stuff, training, getting out and working out," said David Campbell, a veteran referee and the president of the ECFOA.

"We do (put a lot of trust in our officials). Unfortunately, it's high school football. We don't have resources to send members to doctors and take stress tests and do blood work."

Lohmann, according to Campbell, happily took on a significant workload with the association. A well-known baseball and football official, he lived in Belle Glade and could often be seen bicycling around his neighborhood.

He frequently played tennis and jogged, and officiated Western Communities Football League games on weekends.

"He was one of the active guys," Campbell said. "He never slowed down."

The school district works with the ECFOA on assignments, slotting refs to games using several parameters.

Before the season, coaches fill out a list of referees they do not want officiating their games, but that is almost solely based on the coaches' opinions of their officiating ability.

Referees can ask the ECFOA and Yetta Greene, the school district administrator in charge of athletics, to avoid scheduling them for games with higher-powered teams.

"It's a topic that's more evident in the recent years," Greene said. "You can't just say, 'You're 70. You can't work anymore.' That's against the law. But we do have some referees who'll say they're getting too old to keep up with the top teams."

For its part, the FHSAA lists a short policy in its Officials Guidebook, which is posted on the FHSAA website: "Officials shall prepare themselves both physically and mentally, shall dress neatly and appropriately, and shall comport themselves in a manner consistent with the high standards of the profession."

While there's no stress-test requirement in the FHSAA's guidelines, the organization does ask each officials association to offer rules and mechanics training sessions to its members.

"We have 12 meetings a year with our veteran guys, and the first- and second-year guys have eight sessions in addition to that," Campbell said.

"It's really up to each guy. We're more concerned about keeping the kids safe. That's what we train for."

jgreer@pbpost.com Twitter: @jeffgreer

September 11, 2013

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