2 longtime football officials start training the next generation

By Kathryn Rice

With the shortage of officials for high school football games, two longtime football officials, James Pederson and John Clayton, mentor their children, Brenden Pedersen and Deanna Clayton, both freshman football umpires.

Claytons continues the tradition

John Clayton refereed football games for 25 years. He’s played in four state championships and numerous playoff games, as well as eight-a-side football games through Grade 6 schools. September that he officiated with his daughter, Deanna, in his first football game in the Nodaway Valley vs. Stewartsville/Osborn game at Graham.

“As the father of only daughters, I never dreamed of having the opportunity to referee a football match with one of them,” John said. “When I started, female referees were rare and female football referees did not exist. It is wonderful to see women pursuing careers as civil servants; especially considering how difficult it is to recruit and retain new civil servants .

Deanna is the first female football referee in the Northwest Missouri Officials Association.

“I was involved in athletics from the age of three through college,” Deanna said. “Refereeing is a way to keep enjoying the sport, just from another perspective. Growing up, I watched my dad referee the ball. Being on the field with him as another official was a great experience.

“It’s a direct line of three generations of football officials since my father, his grandfather, officiated in the 60s and 70s,” John said. “He instilled in his three children a passion for the sport, which in turn passed on to the next generation. My nephew joined me on the field 14 years ago and I had the privilege of working a state championship with him a few years ago.

“I had planned to retire from active officiating and move on to helping train other officials at the end of this season, but I may have to buy some stock in BioFreeze and Aleve and stay for a few more years” , said John.

Deanna and John Clayton officiated their first college game together on October 8.

Pedersens loves the game

At any game, there could be up to three Pedersens in the striped shirts as James, Brenden and David Pedersen are busy officiating football games.

James Pedersen started as a high school statistician for basketball and football.

“I looked at the referees and said I was going to do it one day,” Pedersen said.

He mainly officiates football but can also umpire baseball and softball. He said football refereeing is good for people who work full time as games start later in the afternoon. Softball and baseball games start earlier in the day and are therefore sometimes more difficult to fill with a full-time job.

Pedersen is thrilled to have Brenden referee. Brenden is the third Pedersen to referee football, as James’ brother David has also refereed football for 13 years. The three refereed a few games together, including Brenden’s second college game.

James said: “If you love sports, it’s not about the money. It’s about sports and helping children. Without officials, the match cannot be played. Having Brenden working with me is a great honor and accomplishment.

“I really enjoyed the Friday night lights and thought it would be a great way to get back into the action,” Brenden said of his refereeing debut. He is a 2019 graduate of Maryville High School.

“The experience I’ve had playing has been great,” he said. “It’s like having another family there to share and enjoy the same love for the game that you have.

“I hope to continue to referee and improve my skills, so that the next generation of football players can have the same opportunity as me to play the game they love. There is a shortage of referees who are a part very important part of the game, because without referees, there is no match.

James’ brother, David Pedersen, said: “I love playing football. I know the sport. I appreciate the kids and the effort they put into it, talking to the coaches and the ball boys on the sidelines. I’m looking forward to Friday.”

Becoming a high school track official is relatively easy. New officials can register at any time of the year without incurring a late registration fee. Prior to certification, they must submit the disclaimer and pass the Part I test.

For more information on how to become a game official, visit mshsaa.org and click on the Officials tab. The entry fee for the first sport is $65, the second sport is $30, and additional sports are $25 each. For more information, individuals should contact the Missouri State High School Activities Association office at 573.875.4880.

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