Finding the right people to officiate intramurals may seem tough, especially if you’re establishing a new program. Participants can get a bit competitive in the thick of whatever game they’re playing, and asking a fellow student to maintain some level of control over those situations could be a tough sell.
Of course, that’s if you’re asking the wrong people. There are plenty of students on every campus who are passionate enough about sports to not only fill the role of intramural official, but thrive in it. You just have to know how to recruit them.
“We’re looking for people who are positive and want to create a welcoming environment for participants,” said Andrew Hoffer, the competitive sports coordinator at San Francisco State University (SFSU). “We want to officiate a good game and follow policies, as well as provide an outlet for students to interact with other students in an organized sport environment.”
At SFSU, the goal of intramural sports is to give students the chance to maintain active lifestyles through the sports they love. As such, the purpose of intramural officials is to facilitate a balance of fair competition, safety and fun in those games. Doing so requires the right attitude and motivation.
“Creating a program students want to work in is effective in attracting good officiating talent,” said Hoffer. “At the intramural level, my priority is more about attracting good attitude and effort, and the student managers and I can train and build the new staff as officials after they join.”
Creating a positive environment for intramural officials to work in can be challenging, especially since their job involves a lot of management and conflict resolution. So, consider making it about more than just a paycheck.
“Everyone really likes having a cheap Halloween costume in October,” joked Hoffer about the officials’ uniforms. He listed real benefits as well: “Other perks include an on-campus job, working in the evenings, working with other students in a fun and active environment, as well as the professional development campus recreation provides.”
In addition to these perks, SFSU offers extra classes for intramural officials. “At the Mashouf Wellness Center, we offer some value-based programming in which we teach students about topics like goal-setting, wellness and resiliency,” said Hoffer.
In fact, being teachable is one of the most important qualities Hoffer said a potential official can have. It’s even more key than athleticism or sports knowledge.
“I look for potential candidates who have an ability to learn, are serious about being professional, and display positive attitude and effort,” said Hoffer. “Previous athletic ability is not a necessity at all because I train all of the officials with the help of the senior staff within the program.”
That being said, the right individuals for the job won’t be the ones who show up just for the benefits. Your best officials will be the ones who come each day motivated to do their jobs well because they care about what they do.
“We like to see students come in with an idea of what they want to get out of the experience, and not just looking for a paycheck,” said Hoffer. “We’re looking for a positive mindset we can work with.”
The real trick is spreading the word to get these perfect candidates through your doors. On-campus marketing becomes critical in bringing new intramural officials on board.
Crafting campaigns for social media, on-campus job listings, and other platforms is necessary and can benefit your department very early each semester. “Balancing that effort with creating intentional marketing materials for job descriptions can really benefit your program from the beginning,” said Hoffer. “In those marketing materials, stating the job is a fun and exciting atmosphere is useful.”
But at SFSU, the best officials seem to already have a direct tie to the department. “The most invested officials come from word of mouth, between the current employees and their friend groups, classmates or members of other clubs,” said Hoffer.
Assembling a staff of capable, qualified intramural officials requires patience, close attention to detail and clear communication of your department’s vision. Doing so will be a huge benefit to your intramural programs.
If you don’t feel like you’ve found your dream team of intramural officials, try shifting the focus of your recruitment efforts. Are you actively searching for students who are motivated culture fits, or just settling for anyone who wants a paycheck?
“Hiring and staffing is like creating a roster for a competitive team,” said Hoffer. “Considering your personalities is important if you have that luxury.”