I’m used to being on my feet sprinting and jogging for hours at a time in sweltering Georgia heat during a summer lacrosse tournament. I thought I was in fairly decent shape, but twenty minutes into a SOPTI (Sports Officials Physical Training Institute) workout quickly purged that thought. After twenty minutes, half of which was a warm-up, I was on my hands and knees trying to get more air into my lungs while bright spots lit up in front of my eyes. Ten minutes later I was hurling over the side of the fence.
In good shape? Please. I’m nowhere near SOPTI-shape, but I want to be. I don’t ever want my level of fitness to be an excuse for my assignor to keep me off a competitive game. One of the benefits to being a twenty-five year old official is that I can still keep up with just about any player you put in front of me, but that isn’t going to last forever. I will get older while all the players will still be 18-24 every single season.
“The purpose of SOPTI is to address the physical needs of game officials and provide a positive impact on the future of competitive sports.” That is SOPTI’s mission and was developed through the training relationship between Gus Morris and Lesa Parsons. They have developed a training program for sports officials that consists of functional training, proper diet, and regular tracking of progress. Gus told me that there are three aspects of officiating that will get a ref to the next level: rules knowledge, great mechanics, and solid fitness. Without all three you just won’t make it to a high level in sports officiating. He would know, Gus has officiated four SEC Championship games.
I’ll be keeping regular track of how I progress through my SOPTI training over the next several months. My goal is to come into the 2014 season in the best possible shape I can get myself into between now and then.