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7 teams working with high school associations to boost officiating

The NFL is partnering with high school associations across the country to get more people officiating at the high school and youth levels.

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The NFL is working with the National Federation of State High School Associations to promote high school and youth officiating. The goal is to increase officiating numbers at that level — the level where every NFL official gets his or her start.

The Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills will participate in the initiative.

In affiliation with respective state associations, the participating NFL clubs will recognize youth and high school officials across their states in the months of September, October, and November. Recipients will be highlighted for their demonstration of objectivity, fairness in rules implementation and commitment as high school football officials. In association with Nike, crews will receive apparel and uniform items to keep them outfitted on the field. Across all participating markets, nine officiating crews each month will be nominated as the crew of the month, with the winner being recognized on NFL Play Football social channels and on the Play Football website.

The seven NFL teams will serve as host sites for officiating recruitment and retention.

There is no doubt that the number of amateur and sub-Division I officials are dwindling. In Illinois where I officiate, several schools have to move their varsity contests to Thursday night or Saturday afternoon, because there aren’t enough crews to go around on Friday nights.

Here’s hoping the NFHS/NFL partnership produces fruit and more people become officials. And personally, I hope more NFL franchises join this partnership in the years to come!

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Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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