Officiating football as simple as loving the game, head ref says

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— If anyone knows the time commitment and dedication it takes to be a prep football official in Northwest Colorado, it’s Elvis Iacovetto.

For 35 years now, Iacovetto has roamed middle school and high school fields in the region, 24 of them also on the basketball hardwood, throwing flags and keeping feisty coaches and sideline parents at bay.

But it comes at a bit of a price, even as a paid gig, so each season Iacovetto finds himself on the search for the next generation of officials willing to take the time and effort to fill out a staff — one that is in need once again this upcoming season.

“Right now, we’ve only got about 17 officials, and some of them do shift work at the mine and not everyone is available every Friday night,” Iacovetto said. “If we could get six or eight new officials, that would be good. The trouble is we’re all getting older and we’re not getting any younger guys to fill in the next five or six years.”

The process is about as simple as it gets. The dedication is a different ball game.

In order to wear the stripes and make an impact on prep football fields this fall, the only current requirements are being a high school graduate, taking the officials’ test at the end of August, and setting aside time for the requirements, which include monthly meetings, which begin in a few weeks.

It can be a thankless job at times, even for Iacovetto’s decades-long career. But aside from the written requirements, Iacovetto has his own cardinal rule: love the game.

“If you’re a football fan and you like football, you’re close to the kids and staying in the game from basically the opposite side — officiating rather than playing,” he said.

It isn’t always a Friday night requirement, either. Iacovetto said newcomers typically get their feet wet wearing the zebra stripes at the lower levels, usually middle school or freshmen. Varsity is an earned position.

Officials are compensated, too. For varsity contests, they make $57 for roughly three hours of work. For lower levels, “sub-varsity,” Iacovetto likes to call it, pay is in the $42 or $43 range.

And it’s not exclusive to brand-new signal callers, the longtime head official in the region said. Referees from all sports are welcome to come out and try a new role, like a lacrosse official or a baseball umpire.

The entry test is available online and open through August. It is open book, and regardless of pass or fail for the region, officials will be assigned a roll in some capacity.

The region covers schools in Meeker, Moffat County, Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs. Training through the monthly meetings is available for all who are willing to spend the time, Iacovetto said.

“We give them as much training as we possibly can,” he said.

Those interested can contact Elvis Iacovetto at 970-736-8308.

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