One of the hardest jobs in football

Mark Kuhn considers officiating high school football on Friday nights as very special. He works with the same crew throughout the season, and enjoys spending time with those friends.

In his 13-year career as a high school sports official, Kuhn has watched some of Toledo’s best talent, like Baltimore Ravens defensive end Chris Wormley, who graduated from Whitmer High School. He’s also watched twin brothers Nick and Nate Holley, who are fighting for a roster spot with the Los Angeles Rams. The Holley brothers are Whitmer graduates as well.

“It’s fun,” Kuhn said. “Seeing the kids all fired up to be out there, being involved with that, that’s a big part of being an official.”

This summer, Kuhn taught aspiring high school football officials. As he stood at the front of a room in Sylvania Tam-O-Shanter, he instructed a group of 11 wanna-be officials on different high school football rules. Kuhn spoke about what qualifies as a catch in high school football, as well as the difference between clipping and blocking in the back. He also spoke about the importance of speaking with coaches when they have questions, and offered a very important piece of advice.

“If you don’t see it, don’t call it,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn works as a lighting designer at MDA Engineering in Maumee. He also teaches the new officials class for high school baseball along with high school football. Before the start of the season, new officials must take at least 25 hours of class time. Thirteen people were enrolled in the class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Before Kuhn and fellow official Steve Traxler lectured on the rules of the game, physical therapist Kaitlyn Krizman discussed exercising and injury prevention. Krizman, who is Kuhn’s niece, lectured on the importance of strength training exercises such as calf raises, squats, and lunges.

As Krizman also spoke about doing cardio and aerobic exercises, Traxler briefly chimed in. “Get your heart rate up,” Traxler said to the group.

Traxler mentioned that though football plays are quick and there is downtime, each official should still be in good condition.

“In season you want to try to maintain this conditioning that you’ve worked up to,” Krizman said.

After the classroom portion of the evening, the group went to the field house to learn different ways to blow their whistles and throw flags.

Fellow officials Thom Dart and Rami Mansour taught the class with Kuhn and Traxler. The first activity for the officials was learning different ways to blow their whistles.

“When we’re killing a play, one hard whistle,” Kuhn said to the group.

As the group started the exercise, they stood in a line. Each official had to practice blowing a quick gust of air into their whistles.

“You should have little bite marks in your whistle after your first game,” Dart said.

As the class prepares for the season, aspiring officials must earn a 75 percent on two written exams. One of the exams is on the rules, and the other is on mechanics, such as knowing where they need to be on the field and different flag throwing motions.

Kuhn wants people to know there is a need for officials in sports other than football. He said the job as an official is something people tend to not want to do anymore.

Still, he thinks this class is an engaged, interested group. He’s had classes before where people weren’t really interested.

“It seems like this class is going to be really good,” Kuhn said.

Link to the full Toledo Blade “Behind the Lights” package:

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