While it is not a category that the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) formally tracks in its archives, the Association believes that Shelbyville High School senior Jordan Sieger (above left) is making a unique bit of history at the 2017 IHSA Boys Track & Field State Finals.
Sieger became an active IHSA official in track & field, basketball and volleyball in December, 2015. Fast-forward 17 months to Sieger qualifying for the 2017 IHSA Boys Track & Field State Finals in the 1600-Meter Run, where he is believed to be the first active IHSA official to compete in a state final in the sport they officiate (and likely in any sport).
Sieger will compete at Eastern Illinois University in the IHSA state prelims on May 25, 2017, just a week after he volunteered in the Clerk’s Tent at the IHSA Girls Track & Field State Finals. Sieger talked about his experience as an official…
Q: How and why did you decide to become an IHSA Official?
“I started running track in seventh grade and since that time have always helped our coaches when we hosted home meets. They put me in charge of field events and I really enjoyed it. I was talking to (IHSA official) Ben Guyot (Sullivan) at a track meet last year and he told me that you could start officiating for the IHSA at age 17. I love track & field, so I thought ‘why not?’. The IHSA needs more officials and its chance to give back to the sport and provide fair competition for the athletes. It’s an amazing atmosphere to work in. When the crowd rises as the runners come down the home stretch of a race, that’s a feeling that is hard to explain.”
Q: How has your officiating career progressed and who has helped you along the way?
A: "Because I got my license in December 2016, girls volleyball was already over and basketball was underway, so I officiated track last spring, and then got into volleyball and basketball for the first time this fall and winter. All the officials I met or worked games with helped me or offered advice. Michelle Boatman (Effingham) became my mentor in volleyball and Todd Keown (Shelbyville) in basketball. Any game I worked, I told my partners to give me as much advice as possible so I could better myself as an official. I believe it is our our responsibility to treat every game, meet or match like it’s the state finals. I want to be the best I can be. It’s important to keep those standards whether it’s as an athlete or an official."
Q: What will it be like competing at state after your experience as an official?
A: "It is kind of hard to describe. The officials support every athlete who will be competing on that track this weekend, but it will certainly be a bit different knowing some of them so well. I know they support me and it’s a really special feeling, but weird at the same time. I look at those officials and think ‘I am one of you guys’.”
Q: What would you say to a young person who is considering becoming an official?
A: "I would tell them to reach out to other officials. The IHSA can help you through its mentoring program or you can literally just go talk to an official after a game or meet. There are plenty of Officials Associations and any of them are willing to help you step-by-step to become the best official you can be. So many people are willing to help you in a heartbeat in any sport. Jamero Rainey (Edwards) and Mike Powers (Batavia) took me under their wing in track, helping me not only with meet management and rules, but also things like apparel and the right starter gun to buy. And don’t be afraid of coaches or parents. You are passionate about the sport. You know the rules."
Q: What’s next for you?
A: "I’ve wanted to get a law degree and get into politics since I was in fourth grade. The best way for me to make that happen was to join the United State Navy. So, unfortunately, that means I will have some time away from officiating, but my fellow officials keep saying, ‘don’t forget about us.’ And I won’t. After my deployment, when I have time off, I plan to be officiating because I love the sport and I love giving back to it. I will never forget the help and experience officiating has given me and it has helped me as a person for the future. It has helped me learn how to work with and communicate with different types of people. I will definitely come back and officiate. The athletes need us."