Van Parks of Reynoldsburg is a Hall of Famer

By Rick Palsgrove
Eastside Editor

Van Parks of Reynoldsburg will be inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association Officials Hall of Fame.

Van Parks of Reynoldsburg has been elected to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Officials Hall of Fame.

Parks was one of 13 individuals who will be inducted to the hall fame during a banquet on June 10 in Columbus. Throughout his career Parks has officiated high school basketball, football, softball, volleyball, and baseball games.

Parks began his officiating career in the 1970 when he took officiating classes at Ohio University for football, basketball and baseball. After graduating from Ohio University in 1974, he taught at Reynoldsburg City Schools and also coached football and wrestling.

He officiated football and basketball for 43 years and umpired baseball for five years before he began umpiring girls’ fast pitch softball. He has umpired softball for 28 years and girls’ volleyball for 25. He also officiated at the Division 3 college level for over 30 years.

“Even though I am no longer officiating football and basketball at the high school varsity level, I am still working at the junior high level,” said Parks. “I continue to umpire softball at the varsity level. I have been fortunate in my career to have worked numerous games in the State Tournament for football, basketball and softball.”

Parks said he started officiating because he always had an interest in athletics.

“It was a passion that evolved over time and it was a means of becoming more involved  with the student athletes, as well as becoming a part of the officiating fraternity,” said Parks.

Parks said he enjoyed officiating all the sports, but football was his favorite. He said basketball is the most challenging game to officiate.

“The pace and flow of the game requires  you to make instantaneous calls,” said Parks. “You try to anticipate a play as it develops before you make a call, but if you hesitate making a call the play is over.”

He said football is different because an official can observe the action, throw a penalty flag, and continue watching the play before the penalty is enforced.

“It lets your mind digest what your eyes have seen,” he said.

Parks is the only football official who has officiated more than one game in the State Football Championships in the same year. In 1992 he worked the Division 3 final in Massillon in the morning and that same day in the evening he worked the second half of the Division 2 final between Dublin Scioto and Akron Buchtel.

“I had to replace the umpire who tore a muscle and was unable to work the rest of the game,” said Parks. “I officiated one and a half games. It’s my most memorable experience.”

Parks said weather often plays a memorable role in games, such as when he worked a college game on Dec. 7 in Albany, N.Y., an NCAA Division III quarterfinal football playoff game between Ithaca College and RPI.

“The game was played in blizzard conditions with one and a half feet of snow on the ground and zero visibility,” said Parks. “You could not see any field markings, only the pylons on each end of the field. The snow started at 3 a.m. and was still snowing when the game finished.”

He said his most memorable high school game was the last varsity game he worked in Mansfield in 2014, a game between Mansfield Madison and Bellville Clearfork.

“I was knocked down by the defensive line making a play,” he said. “I suffered a dislocated shoulder along with a broken leg-tibia bone. In December I had torn rotator cuff surgery. The broken tibia healed without surgery. That was the end of my varsity career even though I continue to officiate at the 7th and 8th grade levels. Sometimes you can make the choice, sometimes circumstances choose you.”

Parks said that, though the games are basically the same, there are a few changes from when he first started officiating.

“There have been numerous rule changes to make the games safer for the student athletes,” he said. “There are more demands on the student athletes, not only on their time, but also their training. Most of the sports have become a year-round commitment in regards to camps and other organizations such as AAU, USA so that it makes it difficult to participate in other sports. The student  athletes, in many cases, are forced to specialize in one sport. There are fewer multiple sport athletes compared to what there were in years past.”

He noted parents and spectators have become more rabid over the years.

“They’re much more vocal, almost to the point of being disrespectful,” said Parks. “Sometimes crowd control can become an issue, even at the younger youth level. The parents can be much more disrespectful toward officials. There is more emphasis on winning than learning the game and sportsmanship.”

Parks said he is blessed with a loving wife and family who supported him as he pursued his commitment to officiating.

“As I think back over the 46 years, I am amazed how quickly time has passed and how blessed I have been through the years,” said Parks. “I remember some of the contests I have worked, but what I remember more are all the lifelong friendships I established from all walks in life – doctors, attorneys, businessmen, salesmen, and so on. I am honored and am very humble in being selected to the officials’ Hall of Fame.”

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