UNION CITY – Union City’s Paul Armstrong is hanging up his whistle after 38 years of officiating OHSAA varsity high school basketball.
“My body doesn’t say that it is young anymore,” said Armstrong. “I just feel it’s time. Officiating takes a lot of time to do it right and I come to that decision this is what I want to do.”
Paul’s son Zach Armstrong, a Mississinawa Valley and Wittenberg University alum followed his father’s footsteps also officiating varsity high school boys and girls basketball.
“I’ve enjoyed working with my son but there are also downfalls to that,” Armstrong noted. “Coaches don’t always appreciate that fact either but basketball has been good to me.”
“Officiating teaches you about life. It builds character, teaches you how to deal with people. I think my son is a lot better dealing with people than I was at his age but that come from having a college education. He deals with people a lot better than I did at 23 years old.”
“I think we get too many officials that start too late,”added Armstrong. “We have a lot of people starting in their 40’s, even 50 and up. If you can get started at a young age, it’s the time to do it.”
“As an assignor, Paul makes my game easy,” said OHSAA assigner and basketball official Kevin Forrer. “I tell people all the time I can only be in one gym. The integrity Paul brings and I know on each given night that he takes care of business properly and I’m not going to get many phone calls on him out on the floor.”
Armstrong has seen the good and the bad that comes with officiating with the good far outweighing the negative.
“I have met a lot of great coaches,” noted Armstrong. “Just in Darke County I can think of Richard Cline, Neil Hans, Lee Faulkner, Roger Collins and Fred Matix. They all were great people and probably had a lot to do with me staying in the game. Fred Matix was very instrumental in getting me started.”
Armstong shared a trying moment from more than 10 years ago officiating a high school girls basektball game.
“I was physically beat-up leaving the court 13-years ago by a Celina fan who didn’t even have a daughter that played in the game,” Armstrong said, “He had no idea why he did what he did – but he lost his head.”
Armstrong shared his thoughts on the game today including parents and fans.
“They forget that it is just a game,” Armstrong stated. “If you listen to the commercial the OHSAA runs, the chances of any athlete being a D-I athlete or even becoming a professional is very slim. Parents have to understand that it’s just a game”
“I’ve officiated and I’ve been a parent,” continued Armstrong. “Being a parent with your kid playing is probably the hardest thing there is but you still have to remember at the end of the day it’s just a game and we all go home.”
Armstrong believes the OHSAA is taking the right steps in curbing fan abuse not only to officials but coaches as well.
“Today you never know what is going to come at you,” Armstrong said. “It’s concerning whether high school athletics will continue if people continue to act the way they are. They are starting to crack down. Some leagues are starting – a fan gets ejected they have to serve a suspension or go through the class. I think that is a good thing. I think it will wake the people up if they have to go through that class.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Paul Armstrong officiates a 2019-2020 Ohio High School Athletic Association varsity basketball game. (Gaylen Blosser photo)