Following a lengthy five-year process, St. James High School students are getting their first chances to officiate and referee youth sports.

The idea for an officiating class was first brought to light by Steve Witcraft, a guidance counselor and basketball coach, who has years of experience officiating.

“It’s getting there,” said Adam Schroeder, who teaches the course. “Now we’re starting to get more of a hands-on experience. For the first few weeks, we were working out of a textbook, learning the basics of officiating.”

The course is just starting their basketball unit. Despite not getting on the court as officials in class, a few students got their first game action at a youth basketball tournament on Saturday.

“I just wanted to learn more about the sports I play and also being able to officiate,” said senior Kobe Mohwinkel. “Help out the kids. In the summer I like watching baseball so why not officiate and make a little money.”

Mohwinkel, Peyton Hanson and Charles Schmidt all officiated over the weekend.

“I think they did a good job,” said Schroeder. “The biggest thing we talked about was confidence. Those guys went out there raw, they didn’t do anything in class with the hands-on stuff so they were definitely in there new.”

While most students in the class are athletes, there are some non-athletes, who just want to learn more about the games they watch. However, even some of the athletes in the course are adjusting and learning more about the game than they ever imagined.

“It’s funny because a lot of the basketball players think they know the game, then you put them on the spot and they kind of step back and think maybe they weren’t that knowledgeable,” said Schroeder.

“I think taking this class will help me on the court, and it’s a good way to build confidence in the classroom too,” said Hanson.

Hanson and Mohwinkel both agree that officiating will help them as players to be more objective and reasonable towards officials, a job that doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the hardest around.

Schroeder hopes to add various sports in the future, starting with football and baseball, and potentially moving on to wrestling and volleyball, but for right now, Schroeder and his 25 students are just looking to continue improving and grow their confidence in their introduction to the world of officiating.

“There’s just so much to cover. I hope we can get to all of it.”