Football referees and other officials often draw criticism. It comes with the territory, and most who do the job know and understand that. But Marty Peters wants to try to reduce the amount of grief some local referees, linesmen and others must face.
Peters, 48, has been an officiator for 14 years. He's officiated at high school and college games for several seasons but now is trying to give something back. The Annapolis resident is starting a program to teach recreation and high school football referees and other officials how to do their jobs better.
Peters, who is from Annapolis, got the idea for a few reasons. He's participated in a similar 10-week program at Howard University in Washington for several years that greatly helped his officiating skills. The program, which is offered in the spring, is for those trying to move from high school to college officiating.
The participants meet on Saturday mornings to go over rules and how to do their jobs. They often will work during spring practices with the Howard football team, which plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Peters worked in the MEAC from 1992-1996, then returned to the sport in 2002 and has worked smaller college and high school games since then.
"In 1991, when I started in Howard, I thought it was a great idea," Peters said. "Then, about four years ago, when I was getting ready to come back, I thought about coming back to the school then. Now, I just want to teach people how to be youth and high school officials - college officials, they can learn at other places."
Peters doesn't have an official name for his program yet but hopes to start it at the end of March, possibly at Navy. The Naval Academy has junior varsity and lightweight football teams to go with the varsity team, something that referees and other officials in Peters' program could benefit from, especially as they could watch and work with several types of practices.
For now, Peters said he has 38 people who want to participate. He said that teaching more officials a better way to do their job in recreation football would help everyone involved with the programs.
"There's [about] 200 youth football teams in Anne Arundel County alone, and you hear stories about how officials don't show up or just one official comes," said Peters, noting that two or three are used depending upon the league. "I really believe that if people are trained properly, they'll follow through with the commitment."
Peters played high school football in Iowa and then tried semi-professional football when serving overseas in the Army. But when his playing days ended, Peters still wanted to keep a hand in the game, and officiating seemed like a good fit.
"I loved the game as a player, and you get to this age when you can't perform at the level you [want]," Peters said. "I was fascinated by the rules and the mechanics of the game, and how officials are taught to get into the proper position so they can see the play."
Rick Peacock just took over as the new president of the Anne Arundel Youth Football Association and is a big fan of Peters' project.
"I think it's outstanding, and I think that what they're trying to do ... is huge," Peacock said. "Most of these guys are never going to do an NFL or a college game. I know it's going to be a great thing."
Chuck Saine agreed with Peacock and said getting good officials who know what they're doing is very important because it improves the overall product.
"You have officials that have no clue [sometimes]. The biggest problem we've had with the officials is a lack of consistency," Saine said.
The AAYFA is looking at bringing in a group to train officials that work with its games, and Peters' group is a leading candidate. Saine is going to be the AAYFA's liaison between the county's recreation and parks department and the group that works with the officials.
Peters is in the process of putting together the final pieces to his program. He's compiling handouts for everyone involved that will be called "Know It, See It, Call It" to give as many details as possible about the rules and mechanics of the job.
Officials who work in Peters' program will still draw criticism, but this will help them learn more and have a chance to face less grief.
"I guess the group of officials I've come to know over the years have been some of the most interesting, fantastic people," Peters said. "We need more [trained] officials."