If you’ve been to a volleyball game anywhere in the area this season, you may have seen some familiar faces in an unusual location on the volleyball floor.
Several Wayne-area residents are sharing their passion for the sport and putting their talents to the test as game officials, either working the stand or watching from the floor as area high school and college teams compete this fall season.
Terry Munson is the senior official among local residents working in the sport, having called hundreds of games over the past 32 years. He came into the sport back in the 1970’s the way a lot of people seemed to fall into girls high school athletics back in those days — he was chosen.
“My first year at Beemer back in 1973 was really when girls athletics got started in the state,” Munson said the day after officiating a match between Briar Cliff and Northwestern. “Our superintendent came up to me and said he needed a volleyball coach. I told him I didn’t know anything about the sport, but he said I was his guy and I coached there for 12 years.”
After leaving Beemer to take a counseling position at Wayne High School, Munson said his coaching days were over but he wanted to continue to be a part of the sport — so he started officiating the game.
“I registered with the NSAA (Nebraska School Activities Association) and got a couple of calls to work with some other officials, and then later I got into the college side of it and did some stuff at Wayne State College. I just have a real passion for the sport, and that’s something I think officials really have to have to stay connected with it.”
Brad Hoskins’ entry into the job came out of necessity when officials he had assigned to do a game in Wakefield didn’t show up for the freshman game.
“When I was the athletic director at Wakefield, we were expecting some refs from Norfolk to come, and they never showed,” he said. “I’d been around the game enough so I climbed up (in the chair) to to do the freshman match and called it by myself. The refs showed up 20 minutes later and I’d asked them where they had been, and they said ‘We were out in the all watching you work.’ They thought I was doing a good job, so they just let me work that match.”
Hoskins started working with longtime volleyball official Paul Eaton of Wakefield soon after and he continued to officiate after moving to Pender and, eventually, Wayne for the past 20 years.
“When you’re the husband of a coach, you learn the game and if you sit around long enough and have kids playing you start to figure it out,” he said.
Hoskins said he saw potential in Sydney McCorkindale — a Wayne High graduate who played volleyball for his wife, Joyce, and current coach Traci Krusemark — and encouraged her to give it a shot.
“Last year, Brad Hoskins brought it up to me and thought I’d be a good candidate,” she said. “I had done a lot of line judging at Wayne High games last year and he suggested that I consider it and I thought I’d like to do it.”
McCorkindale went to the NSAA’s website to register as an official and take her test, then got an opportunity to work live at the season-opening volleyball jamboree in Wisner, where she officiated one game on the floor and another in the stand.
I’ve done six varsity matches and some junior high and JV tournaments,” she said. “I was nervous at first, because here I was reffing for coaches I’d played against not long ago. I got in the stand at Wisner and just felt comfortable up there. I love the game of volleyball and enjoy giving back to it in a different way.”
Hoskins said McCorkindale has proven to be a good official in her first full season on the job.
“She was a former player who played for two good coaches,” he said. “She was a setter, and setters generally understand the game a little better. She’s also a very bright young lady and is willing to learn.”
She’s also learned to tune out the external noise that comes from fans in the stands who may not agree with the calls she and her partner make during the game.
“I got used to tuning out the crowd noise when I played, but it’s still hard sometimes getting yelled at,” she said. “You just have to stand by your call and trust yourself. Some people might get upset, but it’s part of the game and you just have to trust what you see.”
Hoskins said that uninvited criticism from the stands is one reason why you don’t see as many younger people officiating today as in recent years.
“It’s hard because you have that 50-50 call that goes against the people right behind you and you hear it and sometimes question yourself, so you have to have really thick skin,” he said. “I think some millennials may not like to hear the critiques and that makes it hard sometimes to find good, young officials. But we’ve been lucky around here — I’ve worked with a number of first-year officials this year and we’ve got a number of them in this area, which we haven’t had in a long time.”
Munson said that officials can control the criticism to a certain degree, but it comes down to being confident in your abilities and knowing you’re making the right call.
“I’ve been to some NCAA conventions and there was a question at a coaches forum about coaches who are constantly chirping at officials, and a coach there said that if it bothers you that much then you probably shouldn’t be officiating,” he said. “We do have red and yellow cards that we can control the situation with, and as an official you have to be able to look beyond the criticism and call what you see and be professional and prepared.”
Both Hoskins and Munson expressed concern that not enough younger officials are coming in to help the older, veteran officials out and replace those who want to step away from the job.
“We have a lot of veteran officials who are getting close to wrapping up their careers and not seeing a lot of younger ones coming in,” Munson said. “I’m on a Board of Officials at the college level, and one of our goals is to try to recruit new members. There is a general expectations of officials that is higher than it once was, and the quality of play and the knowledge of the rules requires a little more of the officials than before, so maybe that’s a deterrent as well.”
“I’ve seen some younger people like Sydney and approached a couple, but they haven’t expressed a real interest,” Hoskins added. “Some of our newer officials are in their 40’s, so it’s not too late to start, but I would like to see more younger ones come in so that when they are in their 40’s, they’ve been doing it for 20 years by that time. We don’t want any of us old guys to be reffing while we’re walking around with a walker or a cane.”
McCorkindale said she is happy that she got into working as a volleyball official and said she has a lot of support from the older folks in the field.
“I was surprised at how easy it was to jump in,” she said. “The veteran refs take you under their wing and really help you out. If I have any questions, I can text somebody and they’ll help me out. I think they’re very accepting and excited about having someone new to teach the sport to.”
It’s not unusual for officials to work as many as 10 games a week between freshman, JV and varsity matches and tournaments, which gives the younger ones more opportunities to grow as officials and keeps the veteran officials active and able to help out the next generation.
“One of the things that I really thought was lacking when I started out was a training program, and in the last couple of years the NSAA has been trying to provide training to help new officials feel comfortable and be consistent, and I hope that’s something that can be expanded down the road,” Munson said.
McCorkindale said she has had fun with the experience and hopes to continue officiating.
“I really love it,” she said. “I’ve been coaching little kids basketball and it’s really fun to give back. I had such a blast playing sports in Wayne, and this is something that I really enjoy.”