First Down, Strike One and More Part of New Central Course


DMPS students can learn all about what it takes to be a ref or ump thanks to a new course in sports officiating at Central Campus.

Already the home of a career and technical institute that is a national model, Central Campus just keeps up the good work.

Two more programs have been added this year, ones that seem unrelated at first mention but really are not.

Longtime Des Moines Police Department Captain Kelly Willis was lured out of retirement to head up a five-course sequence in criminal justice that will earn students up to 16 hours of college credit at Des Moines Area Community College and perhaps launch them on their future careers in public service. And Willis already is collaborating with colleagues at Central in other disciplines in ways that weren’t necessarily envisioned when he took the job. He’s also tapping the many contacts he made in his 30 year career with DMPD to keep a steady procession of experts coming to class as guest speakers.

We’ll have more to say about this exciting development after a mock homicide is staged on October 8th that will provide much of the basis for the curriculum throughout the rest of the year. Stay tuned for the next episode of CSI: DMPS.

The other new addition for 2015-16 is coursework in sports officiating. Think of it as athletic justice.

Larry Johnson has been a DMPS teacher for 38 years, the last decade at Central Campus. As a PE instructor with some background in officiating he was approached last spring about developing a course to address a shortage of sports officials in central Iowa. He agreed and the class he’s teaching in Room 3409, not the gymnasium, qualifies as a PE credit for the 10 students currently enrolled. The officiating world remains dominated by men but Johnson’s class is equally divided gender-wise. Three students, Zach Edwards, Zack Horton and Jacob Stites, have already gained the certification required to officiate football just since the start of the school year. Give them a striped shirt, a whistle and a yellow hankie and they’re ready to start flagging DMPS middle school football games, for instance, and earning some money. Besides the shortage in the local ranks, the average age of officials in this area is 53, according to Johnson, so young blood – not just new – is needed.

Thursday morning the class was boning up on volleyball rules and regs. Johnson had them on their feet for a pop quiz on hand signals and if it was kind of hard to imagine teens sitting at a table wearing homecoming togas and ROTC camo or hobbling in on crutches after sustaining a powderpuff football injury as refs at a volleyball match, they looked much more the part when demonstrating how to call an illegal substitution or ruling a player over-the-net.

Most of the class members are varsity athletes and they come from most of the DMPS high schools. Depending on their sport[s] of choice they figure to be much better equipped to plead their cases in the event of what they consider to be bad calls in the future. And more sympathetic too, once they’ve experienced sport from a more official perspective.

Who knows where this may lead? Last year a DMPS grad – Eric Cooper, Hoover High Class of ’85 – called the World Series after already umping his way into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2012. And he didn’t get started until he was in college!

DMPS-TV Report on Sports Officiating at Central

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