Become An Official

The SDHSAA is encouraged by your interest in our officiating program. It is necessary and important that we provide our member schools with qualified officials. Each year in South Dakota, sports contests become more sophisticated and technical. Officials must continually upgrade their skills in order to keep pace with the high school programs which have directed themselves toward excellence.

Contrary to popular belief, the rules of athletics are difficult to read, understand, and interpret. To achieve officiating excellence, an official must combine knowledge of the rules and the game itself with proper officiating mechanics. It is the responsibility of the officials to assure each participant in the contest a fair chance to succeed. Officials, in performing their officiating functions, are expected to be fair and competent and the conduct of such officials shall be in accordance with the policies and purposes of the SDHSAA.

What It Takes To Be An Official

Adapted with permission from the Michigan High School Athletic Association

Many things go into the making of a good official. Knowledge of the rules and officiating techniques are very important. However, there are other details that may determine whether a man or woman becomes a good official or just someone registered to officiate.

The life of an official is not an easy one. Perhaps the first year or two are the toughest, but like the formative period in anyone’s life, these first years are all-important. The most important requirement is that you must gain experience. That means you have to work all the games you can find. Be ready and willing to work YMCA games, church and industrial league games, and scrimmages. Somehow, you have to get the feel of it, and the only way to do that is to officiate. The key is to be patient, and when you get your first interscholastic game, make sure you are prepared to properly handle the assignment.

Independent Contractor Status

While officials are contracted to perform services by schools, their function is by definition independent and the officials have complete control of the contests they officiate. As independent contractors, officials are responsible for their own scheduling, personal equipment, uniforms, insurance, transportation, education, and training expenses associated with officiating.

SDHSAA registered officials are deemed “Independent Contractors” who are contracted to perform a specific task. The official is an independent contractor who offers services and is not an employee of the person or institution contracting for those services. In South Dakota, independent contractors must meet a minimum age requirement of 18 years.

What's Included In My Registration?

  • National Federation Officials Association (NFOA) Membership
    • Insurance which includes general liability coverage, accident medical, catastrophic medical, accidental death & dismemberment, fee loss
    • Officials Quarterly publication
    • Awards program at the State, Sectional, and National levels
    • Opportunity to serve on a national rules committee
  • Rule Books, Case Books, Officials Manual
  • “On the court” training in all sports
  • Online rules and mechanics meetings
  • Rule interpretations
  • Membership in your own sport officials group
  • A special awards program for South Dakota officials

How Do I Find Contests To Work?

Each SDHSAA-registered official is an independent contractor responsible for arranging his/her own games. However, involvement in an Approved Officials Association will provide leads because the local association is often contacted by athletic directors for assistance in filling sub-varsity contests. Especially in the beginning, you may be called to “fill in” for officials when conflicts arise or to accept contracts resulting from date changes or additions to a schedule. To help facilitate your start in officiating, we encourage you to become involved with your local association. Such networks open opportunities for officiating and provide structures for study and learning.

Policies Regarding Registration

If an official drops his/her license and then re-applies prior to the 3rd year from the drop time, s/he enters at the same classification (registered or certified) as when s/he left. An official registering with a previous background of officiating (another state, etc.) may submit appropriate records showing past experience. Based on this data, a determination will be made as to entry classification.