NISOA at 50; Part 2

By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

Last month, the History of NISOA article went from the initial meetings in New York in 1963 to the 1990’s.  This was a time of great growth for the organization, going from a few coaches meeting to over 5,000 members nationwide.  Growing from a concept to an organization that was formalized and strengthened each year under the leadership of Dr. Raymond Bernabei and Mario Donnangelo.  There were other individuals who contributed a great amount of time, energy, knowledge and more.  These include Bob Sumpter, Frank Jewell, Peter Accolla, George Farragallah, George Noujaim, Charlie Lee, Larry Starner, Vincent Forst, Rose Bernabei, Bill Fortin and so many others who volunteered their time year after year to help NISOA grow.  This month’s article will take NISOA into the year 2000 to present and provide insight on many of the accomplishments from this time period.

Las Vegas, NV hosted the Landmark “Forum 2000” which was facilitated by Bob Sumpter.  This was the first step in developing working relationships and partnerships between local chapter assignors and conference assignors.  One year later, 2001, the first bi-annual Assignors’ Workshop was held in Orlando, FL.  The purpose of this event was to train, develop and assist assignors in being more professional and to continue the dialog between local and conference assignors.  The first draft of a working agreement between conference and local assignors was developed during these sessions.

Early in the 2000’s Ken Andres began producing a critical incident DVD that was used at the National Referee Program training programs.  This product proved to be very valuable and greatly enhanced the training program.

In 2005, Frank Jewell and John Van de Vaarst wrote and published the first Pre-Season Guide.  This four page document in newsletter form was the beginning of the current 16 page publication.  One year later, 2006, an agreement was signed with the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) to produce the Pre-Season Guide that is still being sent to all members on an annual basis.  Also in 2005, the first official document on the annual rules differences was prepared by Don Dennison.  This document is still being issued on an annual basis and a rule difference card has been added for officials to carry to every game.

In 2006, NISOA produced and distributed the NISOA Mentor Program on a CD to all chapters.  This has been updated and redistributed.  A series of six lesson plans and back-up material are included which set the ground work for establishing a chapter mentor program.  Also, in 2006, the assessment program began reviewing the annual assessments to look at trends and related information.  This data was then used for the next year’s Pre-Season Guide and instructional material for National, regional and local clinics.

The 2000’s also caused us to lose many icons of NISOA.  Gil Lopez, long time grievance chairperson, and Charlie Lee both passed away rather suddenly.  Although, Gil never officiated a game, he worked tirelessly for NISOA for many years as grievance chairperson and liaison with the NSCAA grievance committee.  Charlie was the ultimate man behind the scenes.  He did the assigning and coordinating of assessors at the NISOA National Training Academy , Elizabethtown College, for many years.  He was secretary-treasurer for the  New Jersey chapter for numerous years, coordinated the NISOA exhibit booth assignments at the NSCAA convention and more.  He was a junior college and Division III assignor in New Jersey and for several years assigned the National Junior College Tournament for both men and women.  He was know by everyone and one of the hardest workers for NISOA.

In 2005, NISOA lost the mother of the organization, Rose Bernabei.  Rose was the one who answered the phone for Dr. Ray, took care of the office records, assisted Ray with office functions and more.  Most importantly Rose was the one who greeted every family member at NISOA functions and made everyone welcomed.  Her loving spirit was contagious and made every spouse and family member feel like they were part of the NISOA family.

In 2006, Mary Van de Vaarst approached Dr. Ray about forming a program for spouses and family members in honor of Rose.  The concept grew and with the help of Debra Wescott the NISOA Auxiliary was formed.  The mission of the auxiliary is to carry out the legacy of Rose at all NISOA functions.  This group has grown to be a positive influence within NISOA, especially at conventions.  The auxiliary plans and executes events for the spouses and friends of NISOA at the conventions and provides that “warm welcome” just as Rose did for so many years.

In 2008, NISOA lost Dr. Raymond Bernabei.  This drastically changed how NISOA conducted its business.  The president’s position became a much stronger force and was required to make many of the decisions that Dr. Ray once handled.  The Associate Director’s position was revised to increase the duties and responsibilities and a Director of Operations position was created to deal with the many operational functions that are required on a day-to-day basis.  The transition was completed almost seamlessly and NISOA continued to move forward and grow.

After an extensive search, in 2011, Cliff McCrath was appointed as Executive Director with the initial charge of strengthening the relationship with NISOA customers and fundraising.  Cliff helped improve the relationships with the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA and more.  Also, the relationship with the NFHS continued to grow with increased interaction and training support.

One of the major highlights of 2011 is when a new webmaster was appointed and the NISOA web was redesigned.  John Puglisi volunteered to take on this responsibility and has continued to improve and enhance the web site.  The web not only includes instructional and informational items but it also allows for registrations for camp, Hall of Fame and Honor Award balloting, election balloting and much more.

Mario Donnangelo passed away in 2011 and Tom Richardson was appointed to a revised position of Associate Director for Awards and Membership.  Tom accepted the challenge and began the process of automating many of the membership and award functions.

At the annual NSCAA Convention in St. Louis, a dialogue began between Arbitersports and NISOA.  Arbiter had just been purchased by the NCAA and requirements were being established for post season assigning and training by the NCAA.  After a year of discussion and negotiations an agreement was reached with Arbitersports for  a multiyear contract for all NISOA members to be a part of the system at a reduced cost.

The National Referee Program was revised in 2011 under the leadership of George Noujaim.  The program was taken from a two and one half day bi-annual training to a one day annual Academy.  The focus of this training is the review of clips from the previous season with the intent on letting the participants learn from others on how to be a stronger official.  The National Referee Program is now working closely with Assessment Program and the Instructional Program to develop the best possible product.

NISOA continues to grow and update its programs to meet the needs of each and every member.  Suggestions on how to improve the program are always welcomed and can be submitted to [email protected].