Judgement calls scrutinized as video technology use rises


Luke Modrovsky

Official Steve Grzymski chats with his crew-mates during a break in play at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.

When officials Steve Grzymski and John Callahan take the field or court at any level, chances are at least one camera is recording the action. With the use of technology on the rise, sports officials undergo a deeper evaluation of the games that they work.

Grzymski started as a Little League umpire right after he graduated from high school.

Now a certified football, basketball and softball official, Grzymski finds a way to not only stay in shape, but have an additional income as well.

“I thought it was pretty neat to have the extra bucks to get a burger or some wings after the game,” said Grzymski.

In his 18th year as a high school sports official, Grzymski believes the challenging craft has increased in difficulty.

“There’s no doubt that it has become more difficult to officiate in today’s day and age. Just about everyone has a cell phone or iPad to record games these days,” Grzymski said of the tool.

Parents of players are increasingly filming games themselves in an effort to send highlight reels to colleges.

“When I first started, there were only one or two parents recording the games,” the long-time official said, “Now, there’s easily half a dozen, if not more.”

Grzymski reports that more coaches and administrators are also using video to question calls made during the course of a game.

We are human beings that try our best, but make mistakes like everyone else.

— John Callahan, basketball official

Similar to Grzymski, John Callahan began officiating after he graduated college in 1990.

When Callahan began calling, games were starting to appear on tape, but were not yet on television. That landscape has changed greatly since he first took the court.

“It does force you as an official to always be on top of your game. Anyone and everyone has a cell phone with a video camera,” Callahan said, “You don’t want to be recorded out of position or making the wrong call, which does happen.”

At some levels, officials are required to take a yearly test and/or attend a certain number of meetings. Although they continue to expand on their education, they still make mistakes.

“We are human beings that try our best but make mistakes like everyone else.”

Both gentlemen point to the friendly atmosphere of the officiating fraternity for why they continue working games today.

“The friendships I have formed with fellow officials have become some of my closest friends. They are the main reason I’ve continued to officiate for 25 years and counting. I would be lost without them, said official John Callahan, on the rewards of staying involved in the game.

Grzymski speaks on all that he has gained from years of being on the field.

“I continue today because I enjoy the challenge of the game, the camaraderie of my fellow officials, the motivation it provides to hit the gym to stay in shape to keep up with the high school kids and the extra income.”