This is honestly I something I never knew the IHSA did. It's a very nice gesture from the IHSA to a group of people that form the backbone of their organization. No officials means no youth sports.

It's a drum we have been banging for a few years now. Anyone that's been involved in the youth sports orbit over the last 10 years know that the pool of officials has been dwindling over the years.

The reasons for the loss of officials has been blamed on a variety of things from a lack of interest in the younger generation to the abuse officials sometimes take at sporting events.

To address the second point for a second, the abuse of officials at games, I will say that I have some first hand experience at high school basketball games after broadcasting them for WROK now for three years, the treatment towards officials the last few years has gotten considerably better. There are still a few coaches and fan bases that ride the officials harder than needed, especially at the high school level, but for the most part, officials have generally received the respect that they deserve.

The IHSA issued this statement in conjunction to releasing their list of officials of the year:

IHSA.org - High school sports do not exist without them and the countless other officials around Illinois whom IHSA schools rely on every day. This award only recognizes a small percentage of our dedicated and talented officials, but we know they are all worthy of our respect and admiration. We understand they do not officiate for awards or recognition, but it remains a very special tradition for the IHSA to be able to honor its Officials of the Year.

A nice statement that encapsulates what's most important to the attitude of the official. They don't do it for the recognition or the money. The majority do it to give back to a community that they loved growing up.

The high school athletic community is a tight one that is lucky to have these officials moving the sport forward:

SportOfficial of the YearHometown
Boys SoccerDoug NeufeldtRoselle
Girls SoccerHannah ShehaiberChicago Ridge
FootballDonald HacklerRidge Farm
Boys BasketballDavid GillilandStockton
Girls BasketballRandy WilsonWest Chicago
Boys LacrosseBrian LarsenSalem, WI
Girls LacrossePatrick FajardoSchaumburg
BaseballTom PlasterFreeport
SoftballRick BirckelbawBloomington
Girls VolleyballJoseph MeyerSpringfield
Boys VolleyballTarah DickersonChicago
Boys Swimming & DivingDennis YardDixon
Girls Swimming & DivingGlenn GabrielHickory Hill
Water PoloJoseph FritschBensenville
Cross CountryDavid StierSherman
Boys Track & FieldJoseph GeigerFrankfort
Girls Track & FieldAndrew BergstromRockford
WrestlingRay EickelschulteFowler
Boys GymnasticsZach CrandellArlington Heights
Girls GymnasticsAnnette NocekLombard
Competitive CheerLaurie WagerO'Fallon
Competitive DanceChristina EricksonMundelein

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