Officiating sports a lifelong passion for former teacher

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Ron Price, in the striped shirt, keeps an eye out for infractions during a football game. Price has been a official for the sport for 47 years. (Submitted photo)

In a few short days Ron Price of La Cygne will take to the gridiron or to the gym to do the job he has loved for 47 years. Whether it has been football, volleyball, basketball or softball, he said he has liked being an official for all of them.

More to the point, he said, “Whatever season it is, I like that sport the best.”

Earlier this year Price was recognized for his commitment to sports by the National Federation Officials Association (NFOA) based in Indianapolis, Ind. Every year, each state submits the name of an official to the federation to receive the top honor.

“They consider years of service and the person’s record of promoting sports,” said Price, who was given the National Distinguished Official Award for Section 5, which includes six states including Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

“Kansas is blessed to have dedicated officials who give back to our schools and communities, and Mr. Price epitomizes the selfless and faithful service as a highly respected and successful official,” said Bill Faflick, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association. “Ron is very deserving of this recognition and Kansas interscholastic activities are better because of his service.”

Price first started officiating as a way to make some extra money when he returned to the region in 1972 after serving in the U.S. Army 196th Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. He had enrolled in education courses in the Kansas State Teacher College, now known as Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg.

He officiated his first football game for an Oklahoma league that year while he was finishing up his college degree. He was hired to teach physical education at Prairie View High School in 1974 and continued to be an official to supplement his income.

Dan Stwalley, who was then PVHS principal, suggested Price become an official for the area leagues after he moved here. He continued to be a football official, and four years after he began, Price started officiating volleyball as well.

Since then he has been an official in volleyball for 44 years, 27 years in basketball and 11 years in high school softball.

One of his favorite experiences was officiating a softball game between the U.S. Olympic women’s softball team and Kansas team of top players 16 years ago in 2004. The Amateur Softball Association, a national organization, brought the Olympic team to Topeka as part of a national tour to get the Olympic team ready to compete in Athens, Greece.

Catherine “Cat” Osterman was one of the star pitchers on the mound for the U.S.A. team that year. Even though that team went on to win gold in Athens, it came close to losing to a good Sunflower State team.

“That lil’ ole Kansas team gave them the best game,” Price said.

Osterman went on to pitch for the silver-medal-winning Team U.S.A. in 2008 and last month in Tokyo, Japan.

In all, the La Cygne man has officiated 33 championship tournaments, and in 2013 he was recognized as the NFOA Kansas Official of the Year for volleyball.

Price retired from teaching in 2011 but has continued to criss-cross the state following whatever sport is in season. “I’ve always enjoyed sports,” he said, adding that has been plenty of motivation to continue his avocation.

While Price is good natured and easy-going off the field or the court, once the game begins his intensity and quick eye for violations is apparent. And keeping up with the flow of the game helps him stay fit.

Plenty of people wanted to officiate when he began 46 years ago, but now school districts are having a tough time finding officials, he said. In some parts of the state, games must rescheduled from Friday night to Thursday to be able to field a complete team of officials.

“There’s always a need for people to step up do this,” he said, suggesting that those who are interested can begin officiating at the junior high sports before moving up to high school.

The way to get started is to go to the Kansas State High School Activities Association website and follow instructions where it says, “How to Become an Official.”

He’s certain that anyone who likes sports as much as he does will enjoy becoming an official.

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