John's Journal
We Interrupt This Vacation to Honor Officials7/24/2010
Saturday was probably the biggest day in the history of sports officiating in Minnesota, and the ensuing days promise more of the same. The National Association of Sports Officials annual summit – July 25-27 at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis – was preceded by Saturday’s “Officiate Minnesota” gathering, a first-time event that brought together officials from all sports from all over the state.

Officiate Minnesota offered five different blocks of general and sport-specific 45-minute sessions. I removed myself from the vacation hammock and spent some time at Saturday’s event, which was unlike anything I have ever seen. A former baseball/softball official myself, I popped into several sessions and found them all to be interesting, educational and invaluable.

(To see a variety of photos from Officiate Minnesota, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

One of Saturday’s highlights was the keynote address by retired NFL official Jerry Markbreit. He talked about his career as a Big Ten and NFL official, but he began his career working touch football games in 1956, being paid three dollars a game.

Here is an excerpt from Markbreit’s speech:

“There’s nothing in the world like officiating. Seven men in the NFL walk into a stadium three hours before kickoff. Different races, different religions, different in every way. You get in that locker room and you take everything off. Out comes that magnificent zebra outfit, the uniform of the official. The uniform changes you from who you are in public to who you are in sport. That uniform transforms you. When I put that uniform on, I felt like Superman coming out of a phone booth. Out on that field to work a football game or a tennis match or a swimming meet or whatever.

"In the whole scheme of life, it meant maybe this much (he held two fingers about half an inch apart). But to the people involved, and the fans and the school and the families and teams and everybody else, it’s big stuff. And you’re doing it. What could be better? What could give you more reward inside than doing that job?”

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn


Squeezing In A Little Down Time7/19/2010
John's Journal is taking a short break while the author rests, relaxes and recharges. Vacation time doesn't last long, however, and before long we'll all be ramping up for the start of fall sports.

The first day for fall practice is Aug. 16. I'll be back in action well before that, but for now I'm sitting on a dock ...or mowing the lawn ... or looking at the stars ... or (fill in your favorite summer vacation activity).

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Wheels Keep Turning, And California Adds Girls’ Wrestling7/15/2010
If I have learned anything since joining the MSHSL staff, it is this: There is no offseason for high school activities. Yes, summer is a time when no school-sponsored athletic contests or other activities are taking place, but wheels are constantly turning nonetheless.

Here at MSHSL World Headquarters, summer is a time for planning and preparing for another school year. For example, next week’s schedule at our office includes half a dozen meetings, including orientation for new members of the board of directors and rules clinicians meetings in soccer, football and volleyball.

The story is the same across the nation; things are always happening. The latest example is Wednesday’s announcement from the California Interscholastic Federation that it will begin sponsoring a state tournament for girls’ wrestling. The first statewide event will be held in February, with a two-day tournament at a high school.

According to an announcement from the CIF, “The invitational comes on the heels of successful regional tournaments last January in which 704 athletes and 173 schools participated statewide.”

“The CIF has been building up to this event the last couple of years,” CIF State Executive Director Marie M. Ishida said. “As the popularity and number of female wrestlers continues to increase, the CIF is committed to the philosophy, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ The CIF is pleased to offer this new event and we are hopeful it will grow into an event that will mirror the boys’ championships.”

Ishida’s words come on the heels of a similar message (recounted in an earlier John’s Journal posting) from National Federation executive director Bob Gardner at last week’s summer meeting in San Diego. “If you build it, THEY will come,” Gardner said, referring to the high school students who take part in activities.

The California girls’ wrestling tournament will have 14 weight classes. Boys also have 14 classes, but the girls’ weights in California will vary slightly from those used by boys. The girls’ weight classes in California are 98, 103, 108, 114, 118, 122, 126, 132, 138, 146, 154, 165, 189 and 235 pounds.

Texas and Hawaii already hold state wrestling tournaments for girls.

(For a link to the CIF announcement, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Do You Know Minnesota’s Hall of Famers?7/12/2010
After returning Sunday from the summer meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations in San Diego, two memories stand out. One is the earthquake that struck Southern California (which I described in an earlier posting on John’s Journal).

The other memory is much less frightening and much more inspirational: the induction ceremony for 12 new members of the National High School Hall of Fame. I wrote about the banquet after it came to a close Saturday night, but it got me thinking about the Minnesotans who are members of the Hall of Fame.

There are 11; the first was inducted in 1986 and the most recent was in 2009. They represent hockey, girls’ and boys’ basketball, football, baseball, officiating, speech and administration. Here is the list of Minnesotans and the year they were inducted:

1986: John Mayasich, hockey
1987: Janet Karvonen, basketball
1989: Bronko Nagurski, football
1992: Jerry Seeman, officiating
1992: Willard Ikola, hockey
1998: Paul Giel, football and baseball
2000: Kevin McHale, basketball
2003: Dorothy McIntyre, administration
2007: Terry Steinbach, baseball and hockey
2008: Barb Seng, speech
2009: Billy Bye, multiple sports

The 2010 inductees include several athletes who are very familiar to sports fans. Being an old thrower on my high school track team, I especially enjoyed seeing Michael Carter and John Godina inducted into the Hall of Fame. Carter, from Texas, set a national high school shot put record of 81 feet, 3 1/2 inches (which still stands), competed in the Olympics and played in the NFL. Godina, from Wyoming, won three world championships and two Olympic medals in the shot put.

Suzy Favor Hamilton, a native of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, who was a distance-running star from high school through college and onto the Olympic/international level, was a crowd favorite. A video of each inductee was shown during the banquet, and Favor Hamilton was shown on the track where, as a fifth-grader, she beat all the boys in a race. She said that remains among her favorite memories.

The other athletes inducted were basketball player Katrina McClain of South Carolina and swimmer Janet Evans of California (Evans spoke at the ceremony on behalf of all the inductees, as noted in a previous post).

I spoke briefly with Evans after the Hall of Fame banquet. Upon learning that I was from Minnesota, she smiled and talked fondly of the Twin Cities and how much she enjoyed competing at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

There is a strong chance that another Minnesotan may join the Hall of Fame next year. But that’s a story for another day.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Hall of Fame: Inspirational Inductees7/11/2010
The 91st summer meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations culminated Saturday night in San Diego with the induction of 12 new members into the National High School Hall of Fame.

Two states that neighbor Minnesota were represented in the inductions by track athlete Suzy Favor Hamilton of Wisconsin and multi-sport official Gary Christiansen of Mason City, Iowa.

Other athletes inducted were Michael Carter of Texas, Katrina McClain of South Carolina, John Godina of Wyoming and Janet Evans of California. Three coaches were inducted: Richard Magarian of Rhode Island, Ed Pepple of Washington and Alton “Red” Franklin of Louisiana. One administrator, Willie Bradshaw of North Carolina, joined this year’s class and the late Dr. Vito Perriello of Virginia, who dedicated a lifetime to the advancement of sports medicine, and George Welch, a music director from Utah, round out the 2010 Hall of Fame class.

After the new members were welcomed into the Hall via video highlights and the presentation of plaques and medals, Janet Evans spoke on behalf of all the inductees. Evans set several California high school swimming records and competed in three Olympics, winning gold medals and setting world records. She competed in her first Olympics while still in high school, yet she returned to high school swimming even after the Olympics.

Evans talked about how important being a high school athlete was to her, and the lessons that were taught via high school athletics.

“I learned lessons that I didn’t learn at the Olympic and international levels,” she said. “It’s not about winning, it’s about being part of a team.”

The Hall of Fame ceremony was extremely inspirational, and it also helped demonstrate – in these days of high-priced professional sports and roaming free agents – the value of high school activities. As National Federation executive director Bob Gardner made some closing remarks, he referred to the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”

“If you build it, THEY will come,” Gardner told the members of state associations from around the nation. “They” are the millions of students who take part in athletics and other activities. These are challenging times for schools and state associations, but everyone who attended the summer meeting came away with a renewed enthusiasm for the importance of the work they do.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn