Refs In Training

Madison, FL - Referees are always learning; every year, every game, everyday. Rules change and the refs have to conform. Every three years, they're expected to partake in a field clinic, which essentially grades them on their performance.

Last Saturday, T.J. Robinson took part in his first field clinic during a Madison County scrimmage.

"I'm expecting to grow as an official," he said. "To learn a lot of things from a lot of veteran guys that's out here."

But he's not the only one learning. This year all officials are taking a crash course in player safety.

"We're gonna really try to be proactive about helmet-to-helmet contact, kids leading with their head and we really want to minimize that," said Danny Witt, who has been an official for 12 years. "We're gonna try to call that more often than we ever have."

With talks of concussion prevention increasing, Witt says Florida officials are ahead of the game.

"We've had a rule in high school for a couple of years now, if a kid has a concussion, we take him out of the game," Witt said. "He can't come back in unless a doctor signs off and says he can."

John Rukstalis, the director of Suwanee officials, helped organize the field clinic this year. He hopes the younger refs will be just as cautious with player safety by using this experience.

"Like most jobs or any tasks anyone would have," he said, "the more experience you have, the more times you ge to see something, the better you become at it."

Unfortunately for Robinson, like any scrimmage, the hits aren't going to be as hard.

"They won't be as intense as a regular gametime situation," he said. "But, I know it's all for the good and help me get better."

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