Berks County Basketball Officials

Marco Ramos

Full-time job: 

Sales Rep


Basketball experience before becoming an official:

 I spent 10 years coaching at the youth/middle school level 


Years as a basketball official:

6 years 


What other officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career?

The two officials that have influenced me by far are Dave McCoy and Kevin Line. Dave gave me my first crack at officiating at Black Top league at City Park in Reading. If you know anything about that league it’s that the atmosphere is electric every night. Officiating there definitely helped me learn how to deal with excited fans and develop a thick skin for when they didn’t agree with my calls. Kevin has been an influence in that early on I really liked how he officiated a game and I’ve tried to model his style since joining the officiating vocation. 


What is the best part of being a basketball official? 

The best part of being an official is two fold. The first thing is knowing that I have the best seat in the house. Often times there are things that go on in a game that the average fan sitting in the stands doesn’t get to be a part of. Secondly is being able to share the love of the game with the coaches and athletes. Basketball is definitely a bonding experience. 


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official? The toughest part of being an official is working the youth level. Often times coaches/fans forget that the players are still learning the game. If we can all remember that little tidbit the youth games would be a much better experience for all. 


What has been the best moment of your career as an official so far? The best moment of my career thus far is earning a 6A district playoff game. 


If you could change one rule in high school basketball what would it be and why? 

If I could change one rule it would definitely be the uniform policy. Often times we as officials have to serve as the fashion police which is never fun. 


What advice would you have for anybody looking to break into the world of officiating? 

The one thing I would tell a new official is to remember why you’re doing this. You obviously love the game so don’t let the fans,coaches,players etc get you down. We all take our lumps early on but if you can get past that then you will really enjoy officiating in the long run. 

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Berks County Basketball Officials

Mike Johnson

Full-time job: 

IT Senior Project Manager, Fulton Financial Corp


Basketball experience before becoming an official:

3-yr high school starter at Governor Mifflin (1993); 4 year college player at Shepherd University (WV) (1994-1998)


Years as a basketball official: 

7 years


Which other officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career? 

Chip Fugate; who helped me to understand the importance of becoming a rules maven. Mastery of the rules, mechanics, and game management are the keys to being a successful official. 


What is the best part of being a basketball official?

Still being part of the game you love and the challenge of mastering rules and applying them to live game situations. Knowing that you are one of the few people with the courage to do a job that most others would not wish to do. 


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official?

Dealing with the fans and coaches (players are usually the easiest to deal with). Most parents/fans (and coaches) think they know the rules of basketball, but there are many nuances to the rules that one could only know from being an official. For instance, the traveling rule (read closely Rule 4-44 on traveling). Fans will sometimes yell for a travel when it may not be a travel by rule. The culture of basketball encourages fans/coaches to say almost anything they want about officials or the job we are doing, but we are expected not to hear it or respond. You must have thick skin to be an official. Most officials realize quickly whether or not they are cut out for this avocation. Dealing with fans and coaches is the number one reason (by far) why many officials do not make it past their third year and why there is a referee crisis (i.e. dwindling numbers) in all sports across the country. 


What has been the best moment of your career as an official so far?

Earning a county playoff game at the Santander Arena.


If you could change one rule in high school basketball what would it be and why? 

The uniform policy. I officiate girls lacrosse and football also; and basketball has the strictest uniform policy by far. As officials, we hate to be the "fashion police"; but we must enforce the uniform rules (e.g. leg and arm sleeves, wrist bands, headbands, and tights must all be the same color for all players of a team, but sneakers and socks can be any color(s) and not match the uniform). 


What advice would you have for anybody looking to break into the world of officiating? 

Determine as soon as possible if you like officiating for the craft and the challenge; or if you like it for the money. If you like it for the former you will stick around even with the downsides (e.g. fan/coach behavior, etc.). If you like it for the latter, you probably will not last long in this profession.  

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Berks County Basketball Officials

Tom Sload

Full-time job:

Senior Analyst – UGI Utilities, Inc.


Basketball experience before becoming an official:

I played at Alvernia University, I began officiating soon after graduation, I then coached Muhlenberg High School for 10 years, prior to returning to officiating in 2010.


Years as a basketball official:

A combined 18 years.


What other officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career?

When I first began officiating Mike Schorn, Jeff Benedict, Jonathon Hoffman and Tom Gwiazdowski were very instrumental in my understanding of the game behind the whistle.


What is the best part of being a basketball official?

Being able to remain a part of the game that I have enjoyed playing, coaching and officiating for over 45 years.


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official?

Having to make split second decisions continually for a 32 minute game.  There is no time to relax during a game, something can happen at any time.


What has been the best moment of your career as an official so far?

Either officiating a district semi-final game at the Giant Center, or the Berks County final at the Santander.


If you could change one rule in high school basketball what would it be and why?

Matching headbands, wristbands, sleeves, kneepads, etc…I realize that all of these pieces of apparel have a huge impact on the game…..Can you sense the sarcasm……


What advice would you have for anybody looking to break into the world of officiating?

Find officials who have been working for a while and ask questions, lots of questions.  Also, don’t get discouraged in the beginning, basketball is a very difficult sport to officiate, it takes time, but it is very rewarding.

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Berks County Basketball Officials

Justin Work

Full-time job:

I am currently Director of Information Technology at the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center.


Basketball experience before becoming an official:

My love for basketball started as a child, when I began playing in a youth league in the Penn Manor School District. After school and during the summer, I could always be found with friends playing basketball.


Years as a basketball official:

I have been officiating for 15 years.


What other officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career?

There are quite a few people within our referee community, who have influenced me. The first person I knew when I got into officiating was Mike Paulson, who I met at a golf outing. I have considered Mike my mentor, as I started on this journey, as he was always there to answer my questions and help me learn more about officiating the game. Bill Nigrini, Mike Schorn and Kevin Line have also influenced me in a positive way, by helping me become a more knowledgeable and experienced official.


What is the best part of being a basketball official?

I love many things about being a basketball official, but two of the best parts have to be all the friendships you create, in addition to being able to watch the growth of all the athletes from when they start out in youth travel until their senior year and beyond.


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official?

The toughest part of being a basketball official for me is the continuous split-second decisions we make each basketball game. When plays happen, we have seconds to make a call before the next one is taking place, and with that comes half of the crowd that agrees with the call and the other that does not.


What has been the best moment of your career as an official so far?

The best moments of my career have been officiating the Girls District Final in 2015 at the Giant Center, and the Boys 6A State Semi Final 2018 between Roman Catholic and Pine Richland. Both were great experiences that I will never forget.


If you could change one rule in high school basketball what would it be and why?

If I could change one rule in high school basketball, it would to eliminate having to address what athletes can and cannot wear on the court. I would prefer to go out and ref the great game we all love and not worry about being the fashion police.


What advice would you have for anybody looking to break into the world of officiating?

For anyone that is considering the world of officiating, my advice would be to take time and do some self-reflecting. Ask yourself, “Can I take constructive criticism? Am I able to make split second decisions? Can I appropriately handle people disagreeing with my calls?” If you can answer yes to these questions, and are able to find a strong, experienced mentor to help you through the beginning years, you are on your way to a successful start. I would also recommend going to camps, in order to get more experience and improve every year.

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Berks County Basketball Officials

Susan Zimmerman

Full-time job: 

Kindergarten Teacher, Shiloh Hills, Wilson School District - 25 years


Basketball experience before becoming an official 

Played at Wilson H.S. 4 years

Played at Moravian College 4 years - My freshman year we hosted the NCAA Div 3 Tournament from beginning to end.  We lost the championship game that year, but wow what an experience to play in the final and be named to the All Tournament Team.

Coached at Wilson H.S. 4 years - I think we won 3 district championships

Coached at Exeter H.S. 4 years


Years as a basketball official:

14 years


What other officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career? 

Davey Becker recruited me and got me started or I wouldn’t be officiating today. Chip Fugate gave me lots of opportunities to work higher level boys and girls games in summer camps that gave me experience that I don’t get normally during a regular PIAA season. Chip also took a lot of time over the years to break down plays, calls I made and situations with me so that I could understand them from multiple perspectives. Kevin Line encourages me to get outside my own head and takes time to give me real constructive criticism with kindness and my best interest at heart.


What is the best part of being a basketball official?

I like that officiating is a mental and physical challenge.  Many decisions have to be made quickly and on the spot all while handling both the physical aspect and emotional aspect of the game. Physically I’m often running and always re-positioning to be on the best angle to see the play unfold. Also, I’m working to stay level-headed and poised while being bombarded by others’ reactions to situations.


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official? 

One of the toughest parts of being an official is dealing with the amount of negativity that is in many gyms these days. I wish that there would be more of a focus on supporting your team no matter if they’re having a great day or a challenging day. Kids make mistakes. Coaches make mistakes. Officials make mistakes. It is frustrating for all of us at times but encouragement and constructive criticism lift and facilitate positive change and growth.


What has been the best moment of your career as an official so far? 

My first District championship I officiated at Hershey Arena because it was my first district championship, but also because it was the first time that Jarra Dennis, Paula Ogeka and I got to work a game together.


If you could change one rule in high school basketball what would it be and why? 

I’m not sure. I do like the simplicity that everything needs to match this year: uniform, headband/pre-wrap and sleeves.


What advice would you have for anybody looking to break into the world of officiating?

Get in good physical shape, study and learn the rules, practice mechanics because it is the way we communicate with crew members, players and coaches. Go watch veteran officials and be open to advice from all.  Then take all that advice and discern what fits the rules, the spirit and intent of the game and your style. 

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Berks County Basketball Officials

Paula Ogeka

Full-time job: 

I am a High School Reading Specialist and work for the BCIU.


Basketball experience before becoming an official:

I started playing basketball in 4th grade and played all through high school. I also officiated Intramurals in college.  


Years as a basketball official:

This will be the start of my 20th season.


Which officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career?

I began my officiating career in Erie, PA, there I had a mentor named Steve Blackman who encouraged me to attend referee camp to better myself.  Let's just say if it wasn't for Steve, I might be watching from the sidelines instead of out on the court. When I moved to Berks County in 2006, John Crossan and Bob Mastromarino were great mentors that really helped me to progress and reach my goals and full potential. 


What is the best part of being a basketball official

The absolute best part of officiating is staying involved with the sport and seeing the athletes compete. The camaraderie I have with my fellow officials is great and because of that I have gained life-long friends. 


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official?

The toughest part of being an official would be that you are constantly under the microscope, and have to make critical decisions every second of the game, but that is also what drives me to become better each and every game.


What has been the best moment of your career as an official so far? 

I could never imagine back in March of 1999 when I passed my officiating test, that I would be where I am today.  I work hard and because of that I have been blessed to be given the opportunity to officiate a variety of Championship games.  I have three moments that have been the highlights of my career: 2015 Single A Girls State Championship game, 2019 Berks County Girl's Championship game and a district championship where I was part of an all women's crew.  I am proud of the State Championship game because as a high school official that is the pinnacle of your career. In February of 2019 I was chosen to officiate the BCBOA Girl's Champ Game; I was honored and so proud to officiate this game in front of my peers and my community. I found out that I was the first female in over 20 years to be selected to officiate this game.  I hope that I was an inspiration to young females out there that anything is possible if you work hard at it. I have also been chosen to officiate seven District 3 Championship games including being part of the first all- female crew from Berks County to officiate a district championship with Jarra Dennis and Susan Zimmerman. 


If you could change one rule in high school basketball, what would it be and why?  

I would definitely change having to police the uniforms that include head gear.  There are too many things to worry about other than if everyone matches and what color things need to be.


What advice would you have for anybody looking to break into the world of officiating?  

In order to be a successful official, you need to be able to know and apply the rules, work under pressure, and be able to shake things off.  We all make mistakes, we are human, but your ability to learn from those mistakes and go out there the next game as a better official is the key.  When I first started, I took everything people said to me personal and I had to learn over time to be confident in myself and continue to improve. 

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Berks County Basketball Officials

Kevin Line

Full-time job:

Sales rep for TIGI Haircare. ( yes, a bald guy sells hair care products)!


Basketball experience before becoming an official

I started playing basketball in 6th grade for The Rising Sun Athletic Association in NE Reading. Went on to play at Northeast JH and at Reading High School where I had 4 points in my high school career. I coached both of my sons in the Wyomissing youth programs for several years until my boys reached middle school. 


Years as a basketball official: 

2019-2020 will be my 15th season and my 12th as a varsity official. I passed the test in Feb 2004. 


Which officials have been the biggest influences on you and your career? There have been so many over the years, but I would say 3 stand out. 1. Mauro Ciabattoni, who ran a summer league in West Lawn. He talked me into taking the test and gave me my first assignment. 2. Mike Schorn, who in 2009 talked me into getting into the assigning end of the game. Last year I assigned over 900 games! 3. Joey Palacz ( Currently officiating D1 basketball in several conferences), who I’ve known for over 25 years, really helped me early with constructive criticism and getting me to start going to summer camps. 


What is the best part of being a basketball official?

There are so many great things about officiating. The friendships you make, all the running keeps the waist size reasonable, you make a few bucks, but most importantly.... you’re giving your time to the kids and the game you love.


What is the toughest part of being a basketball official? 

Trying to block out the parents in the stands that unfortunately do not know most of the rules of the game. Basketball by far is the most difficult sport to officiate. We as officials must make hundreds of split second decisions throughout the course of a game. We also run about 2 1/2 miles per contest.


What has been the best moment of your career so far?

I have been very fortunate to have been chosen to officiate five County finals, two district finals, and a state semi-final, but the highlight of my career was officiating the boys 4A state championship game in Hershey on March 19, 2016. The game was between Roman Catholic and Allderdice. I was a nervous wreck the day of the game and don’t think I ate anything the entire day. But once we got out on the court it was really just another game. Another game with 8000 people watching live,and another 30,000 at home. The game had eight dunks and I still watch the tape when I'm bored.


If you could change one rule in high school basketball what would it be and why? That’s easy, let the kids wear whatever color headbands, wristbands, knee pads, and hair control devices they want. We as officials hate being the uniform police, and really what effect does it have on the game if one kid is wearing a red headband and another one is wearing a white headband on the same team?


What advice would you have for any one looking to break into the world of officiating? 

You better have thick skin and learn fast how to take criticism. Just remember we as officials are out there to enforce the rules, and protect the players. We’re not out there to make friends. Every time we blow the whistle 50% of the people are not happy. But if we hustle, treat the coaches and players fairly and with respect, and are consistent with our calls, the job is very rewarding. 

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Berks County Referee Spotlight

Michael Cesarz

Full-time job: 

Retired in 2017 from a large Healthcare IT company after serving 25 years as a Senior Account Executive. I currently am a PIAA official for both soccer and basketball. 


How long have you been officiating high school soccer? 

I started in 2003 so this is my 16th season. 


Before you officiated, did you play soccer? If so, when and for how long?

 I played soccer for fun when I was young but really started to get engaged while coaching my three children during their early playing careers.


 What inspired you to become an official? 

I would often serve as a volunteer official in informal settings and realized how much I enjoyed the challenge of that role. 


What’s the best part of officiating soccer?

 I am in a position to stay active, work with both coaches and young athletes to enrich their soccer experience and earn retirement income. For me, that's a winning combination! 


What was the proudest moment of your officiating career

Postseason assignments are always rewarding. In particular, I have had the privilege of working both state and district championship finals with fellow officials from the Berks Chapter. 


What is the toughest part of officiating a game? 

At times, the negative feedback can be disheartening, particularly from those who are not familiar with the rules of the game. 


What advice would you have for anybody considering becoming an official? Its a great experience and one that I believe others would find just as rewarding. We definitely need more officials to join our chapter and continue to provide our services to the Berks County soccer community. 

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Berks County Referee Spotlight

Mike Hindenach

 Full-time job:
Receiving handler at Sunsweet Growers in Fleetwood


How long have you been officiating high school soccer?

This is my 20th season.


Before you officiated, did you play soccer? If so, when and for how long?

I played soccer since I was 5 years old and I finally hung up the spikes at age 45.

What inspired you to become an official?
The love of the game


What’s the best part of officiating soccer?
Being around the kids, trying to make them better as an overall player and as a person


What was the proudest moment of your officiating career?

Getting assigned a state final game and now I have 3 on my resume, including doing one last year with my sister, Heather Rusden.

What is the toughest part of officiating a game?

There's 22 of them and 2 or 3 of us. 


What advice would you have for anybody considering becoming an official? 

Please try it. You may like it

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Berks County Referee Spotlight

Heather Rusden

 Full-time job:

Owner of Extreme Insulation Incorporated since 1999

How long have you been officiating high school soccer?

Since 2005

Before you officiated, did you play soccer? If so, when and for how long?
Yes. There was no girls' soccer when I started playing, so I played on the boys' team at Fleetwood for many years through the club program. After school I played for CCWS travel team out of Downingtown. In 2001 during a game I suffered a severe knee injury from a "dirty" tackle, which ended my playing time. After that I started coaching for Spirit United Soccer Club for 4 years. 

What inspired you to become an official?

  My dad and my brother "talked"  me into trying it after I decided I was going to take some time off from coaching.

What’s the best part of officiating soccer?
The relationships with fellow referees, coaches and players who all share the same passion for the game.

What was the proudest moment of your officiating career?

Being chosen to officiate 2 AAA Girls State Finals within 3 years. 2015 and 2018. I also had the honor of officiating with Mike Mayer and my brother Mike Hindenach; in addition, we all graduated from Fleetwood School District. 

What is the toughest part of officiating a game?

The verbal abuse that we must endure on a daily basis is difficult. Being a female referee I believe, unfortunately, is worse. I must "prove" myself twice as much to gain respect from some coaches, players and spectators.

What advice would you have for anybody considering becoming an official?

Come into this with an open mind. Every game is different and be willing to learn and take criticism. In the end, officiating soccer can be one of the most rewarding "jobs" you will ever have as long as you have the passion for the game. 

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Berks County Referee Spotlight

Tim Maurer

Full-time job:  24 Years at First Energy Corp (Business Analyst in Customer Self-Service)


How long have you been officiating high school soccer?

36 years overall (PIAA – 33 years).  Retired from USSF.


Before you officiated, did you play soccer? If so, when and for how long?

Played Youth Soccer including several travel teams.  Had the opportunity to play in Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland.  Played High School Soccer 1982 to 1985. (Berks All-County for Conrad Weiser High School in 1985). Open Division until age of 40.  (Most with Evergreen S.C.)


What inspired you to become an official?

The opportunity to be part of the game of soccer at all ages.


What’s the best part of officiating soccer?

Participating in a ton of great games with very talented players and coaches.  Watching them enjoy the game and forming good relationships over the years.  Working with and having fun with some great partners over the years. (My father Bill, Jim Witters, Mike Mayer, Adam Smeltz, Hank Arbo, Mike Hindenach and Heather Rusden (just to name a few).

What was the proudest moment of your officiating career?

Officiating my third of three PIAA State Championships at age 50. 

What is the toughest part of officiating a game?

Dealing with fans that believe they reserve the right to abuse sports officials and parents who ruin the game for their kids.  In addition, some coaches who put winning before all else.


What advice would you have for anybody considering becoming an official?

Don’t take the criticism and abuse personally.  Making mistakes is a necessary part of developing as an official.  Being part of well-played and exciting games make it all worth it.  In addition, the lifetime relationships you will form with other officials, coaches and players.  

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Berks County Referee Spotlight

Hank Arbo

Full-time job:   I’m a metallurgical engineer with 2 degrees from Lehigh University. I started as a shop floor engineer but evolved to be plant manager at two companies. I retired 25 years ago and now work part-time as a soccer referee and an assignor.


How long have you been officiating high school soccer?

This is my 45th year. Between USSF, PIAA, college, and recreation leagues, I’ve refereed over 8,000 games in my career. 


Before you officiated, did you play soccer? If so, when and for how long?  I was All-County in high school on Long Island in 1957 and 1958 as a striker. I played varsity soccer at Lehigh for three years, then open division soccer until I was 40.


What inspired you to become an official?

I coached my son in youth soccer in Connecticut. A requirement was that coaches had to officiate the game after theirs. I enjoyed officiating and have continued since then.


What’s the best part of officiating soccer?

Knowing I gave the players the opportunity to use their skills by having good positioning, making correct calls, and keeping the game under control.


What was the proudest moment of your officiating career?

Three of us from Berks County were selected to referee a HSG’s state semi-final game. It was a difficult game between two excellent teams. The next day, I received a phone call from PIAA. The losing coach had called them and said we were the most competent and professional crew he had ever seen in 20 years of coaching. We were assigned the state final because of his comments.


What is the toughest part of officiating a game?

Having to endure the negative comments from parents and from some coaches.


What advice would you have for anybody considering becoming an official? Learn the rules thoroughly. Practice positioning and signals. Act as a professional. Accept that you’ll be yelled at, probably in every game.

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Berks County Referee Spotlight

Mike Mayer

Full-time job:  Quality Coordinator for SFS Group USA (we manufacture, assemble and paint building fasteners for use in construction all over the world). 

  

How long have you been officiating high school soccer?  This will be my 40th year as a PIAA official.


Before you officiated, did you play soccer? If so, when and for how long?  Yes, I played high school soccer at Fleetwood HS from 1973-1975.


What inspired you to become an official?  I loved the sport and wanted to stay involved in soccer and there was a shortage of officials even back then when I started.


What’s the best part of officiating soccer?  The relationships that you develop with all of the other officials, coaches and players throughout the years.


What is the proudest moment of your officiating career?  I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to officiate (4) PIAA State Championship games throughout my 40-year officiating career.  I had the opportunity last year to work the 2018 AAA Girls Championship game with two other Fleetwood grads, Mike Hindenach and Heather Rusden.  It might have been the first time that the officials working a state championship game were all graduates from the same high school.  I have also worked state championship games with some other great individuals such as Tim Maurer, Hank Arbo, Randy Moyer & Jim Witters.


What is the toughest part of officiating a game?  Understanding that you as the official are seeing the game impartially, but the fans are seeing the game as they have their team's best interest at heart.


What advice would you have for anybody considering becoming an official?  It is a great way to stay involved in the game and also is a great way to stay healthy and keep active. We are looking for more officials, because there is a definite shortage all over right now.  It is a great way to make some extra money for added income.

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