I remember the fresh-cut grass, the painted lines and my teammates warming up for our first seventh-grade football game.

It was something we had always dreamed of; being in full football pads for the first time. We had grown up together playing games during recess, but something felt different about this game.

I didn’t truly realize what was different as a 12-year-old. Was it the coaches on the sidelines? Was it the fans (our families) in the stands?

The feel of the game was different, but now I truly know what it was that made this game different than all of the others I had been a part of. We had officials there to ensure we had a fair contest.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and one of my duties is to ensure we have a fair game for each one of our athletes at Redwood Valley on a daily basis. As an activities director a daily task is to find officials for each of our contests at every level.

I have yet to have a game when I did not find officials, but it is becoming a task that is harder with each year.

Our veteran varsity level officials are not getting any younger, and our stable to choose from is getting smaller each year.

The referee or official in every game does it for one reason or another, but most will say they are doing it because they love the game they are officiating. They do it because the sport has given so much to them, so in return they are giving back to future generations.

All officials got their start doing some lower level game, and they continued until they got to the next level, just like our athletes.

If you would like to give back to your love of the game, we have opportunities weekly for lower level officiating.

You can try it out to see if it is for you. All you have to do is contact the activities office at (507) 644-8063 and let us know how you can help.

After that first taste of officiating, maybe you too will continue and climb the ladder to be a Minnesota State High School League certified, varsity-level official. The time is now, as there is a shortage across the state to get back into the sport that has given you so much.

You can be the reason that a seventh grader feels like the game is different this year.

– Andy Ourada serves as the activities director for the Redwood Area School District