It is a known fact that quality events increase participation in the sport of volleyball. One aspect of an event experience that teams and spectators will be quick to note and comment on is the quality of officiating they had on their court.  From a Tournament Director’s standpoint, officials are one of the largest expenses when running an event. Many do not realize, but aside from teammates, coaches and parents, the next most visible and impactful figure at a volleyball event are the officials.  In order to host a high quality event that provides a positive experience for teams and spectators, it is important to have a large pool of trained officials who love and understand the game.

Tournament Directors understand that a good officiating crew will, not only call a good and fair match, but also manage the court, while keeping the event moving along with as little delay as possible. 

Recruit Officials

Junior volleyball needs more officials in every part of the country.  With the number of volleyball tournaments increasing each year, the demand for officials is at an all-time high. To recruit more officials in your area, consider planning a Referee Recruiting Session. Reach out to local colleges and universities, former athletes, parents of former athletes, etc.  Make it a social gathering, and invite an experienced Official to talk about the many benefits that come with the role, such as the pay, the camaraderie and friendships, the fun atmosphere, and the travel to name a few. The Official can describe a typical day at an event.

Once you have a list of individuals who are interested in Officiating, they will need to get certified. USAV and AAU both have Certification Programs. JVA hosted events require that Officials are USAV Certified or AAU Certified. We feel their training programs are both very good.

Click here to learn about the USAV Officiating Certification Process
Click here to learn about the AAU Officiating Certification Process

Sometimes, individuals see all of the requirements to become certified and decide to back out, so consider offering a mentor program to help them with the process.  Offer to pay their 1st year dues or purchase their uniform if they can commit to officiating a certain number of events that you host or run. Plan a club scrimmage and hold a training session to let them call a match or two and provide feedback.

Be Organized

Well in advance of your event, secure your Assigner and/or Head Official. A full year out from your event is not too soon.  Smaller events may only need 1 person to serve both duties. Work with the Assigner/Head Official to determine a fair rate based on the size of the event. Take into account that since they will not be officiating, they need to make a fee over and above what they could earn if working a full schedule of matches.  Make sure they know your plan for the number of courts and age groups your event will be hosting.  Most of the issues that occur with coaches, parents and officials are the result of an Official having to work matches that are higher than their skill level.  Your Assigner is key in avoiding those conflicts.  If there is a change in the number of courts for an age division, let your Assigner know.

Take Care of Your Crew

Officials are Independent Contractors. They have to purchase their own uniforms, supply their own equipment and cover their own travel expenses. As Independent Contractors, Officials also have control over their schedule, related to where and when to do the work. Here are the 11 points that define an Independent Contractor. Since officials can choose whether to work a USAV, AAU, independent, or JVA event, it’s important to try to secure officials well in advance.

Officials like coming to events that treat them with respect, and it starts at the top with the Tournament Director and Event Staff. We polled several Officials who shared that there are several tournaments they choose to work at simply because of their great relationship with the people who put it on.

They also consider factors such as reimbursement for food, housing and parking. For multi-day events, provide housing for the Officials that have to travel.  If there is a charge for parking, work with the facility or look at your budget to see if you can cover that cost.  Provide a room for the officials to gather that is away from the courts.  An ideal area would be a quiet space with restrooms nearby.  Work with your Assigner to identify Officials that may not have a break long enough to get lunch or dinner and send someone with food to their court.  Provide grab and go water and snacks at the Tournament Desk. Get payments sent out within a week from the tournament.

It is important that Officials are not feeling instructed or threatened with which events to work and which events not to work. This not only deprives the officials of opportunities for additional work, but it also exposes the groups that are doing this to legal and financial penalties. Once an entity begins to control when and where an Official can work, they are liable for financial penalties due to misclassification, payment of payroll taxes, and will be required to provide Workers Compensation Insurance for those Officials.

Retaining Officials

Officials are the ambassadors to the teams at the volleyball tournaments. Officials enjoy working JVA events because there is a shared philosophy of understanding that happy people enjoy working with others and in turn, they project that on the court! The majority of Officials are officiating because they love the sport. For most of them it is a part-time job. However, it can also be a career when continued throughout the year at higher levels. Your state high school federation also provides training and opportunities for additional work.

With the number of registered and certified Officials declining, it is important that Officials feel appreciated when they are at the events. If an official is treated well and supported, it’s much easier to absorb emotions from players and coaches. It’s just human nature to know someone cares that you’re putting in long hours standing and listening to athletes and coaches who are pouring their hearts out on the court. It seems small, but a smile and “thank you” show you appreciate them. 

As our sport continues to grow and more events are added each season, it is imperative to have well-trained Officials who are willing to devote their entire weekend to a volleyball tournament. We are thankful to the Officials who have traveled far and wide to enhance the quality of JVA events, and we appreciate each and every one of their dedication to our sport.

Resources to train your athletes to officiate

This article was a collaboration between JVA Executive Director, Jenny Hahn, and JVA Director of Marketing and Education, Briana Schunzel.