Douglas closes out five decade officiating career
For the better part of five decades, you could find Floyd Douglas at a game somewhere.
Now, the long-time multi-sport official has decided it is time to hang up his whistle.
“It’s time,” Douglas said. “I kept hemming and hawing and when they kept pushing things back, I decided I wasn’t going to wait. It [officiating] has been good to me and I don’t want to be bad for it.”
Douglas, who recently turned 70, has officiated softball, soccer and basketball games at all levels of play from modified to college.
“I started as a high school softball umpire in 1973,” he said. “What a difference between now and then. When I started, it wasn’t strictly required to wear a mask or carry a ball bag. After I got hit in the eye with a softball down at Scully, then I decided I needed to wear a mask. I did that for years and had a good run.”
The run took him into a new venture, college level softball.
“I found out that the ECAC was going to start up college softball and I got hold of the assignor,” Douglas said. “He came down, watched me and one thing led to another. I was his go to guy when he needed somebody at the last minute. He would call me and I would always go. I might have to go a hundred miles, but I went. I thought I was good at softball until I started doing college games. They teamed me up with an older guy who had been around a long time and he was very good. He was patient and showed me a lot of stuff and thank God I listened to him. I got to work some Division II games and also some D-I games in the summer tournaments.”
It also led to a stint behind the plate for college baseball games.
“Somehow I got hooked up with college baseball,” he said. “I worked college baseball one summer. Every night was a doubleheader and you didn’t finish up until close to midnight sometimes. But I decided I couldn’t do that — umpiring until almost midnight then getting up and going to work the next day.”
Looking to keep busy and build on his softball success, Douglas decided to expand his officiating.
“I got into soccer. Back then it was different, too,” he said. “When I started officiating soccer you did both the varsity and the JV games on the same day because there weren’t that many officials. The varsity played first, then the junior varsity and they had you do both. By playing the varsity first the coaches couldn’t complain that you were tired because you just finished the JV game.”
Douglas has officiated all levels of both boys and girls soccer, including three girls state championship games.
“I did three state finals, including the first one at Cortland,” he said. “When you go to the states you can’t do a school from your area. You go up and work Friday night and are evaluated and then it was decided who would work on Saturday and I made the field all three times.”
The former educator and principal at Guilderland High School, continued to work at improving his game and was recognized by his peers.
“It is surprising that the sport I became better known for is soccer, especially since I never played it except in gym class,” he said. “I got into it and after about three or four years they asked me to be chairman. I was rough. I went by the book and some people didn’t like that, so I stepped away. Probably the best thing because it pushed me into college soccer. I did well there and did postseason almost every year.”
Before could officiate college soccer he had to do some boys games so they could see if he could handle it because at the college level referees are asked to cover both men’s and women’s games.
“Soccer is a short season and I was still doing more than 50 games,” he said.
The level of play at the college level also sharpened Douglas’ officiating game.
“You call a penalty kick in college you better hope that everybody saw the penalty,” he said. “The higher you go up the easier the game is because they are skillful and they know what they are doing. But you better not miss a call because there aren’t going to be that many. It is a real eye opener.”
His continued involvement in officiating led to the hardcoart as a high school and college basketball official.
“I started officiating high school girls basketball then after about three years started doing high school boys games, too,” Douglas said. “For basketball, I got asked to go to the Albany board to work girls games. I was working for four college assignors along with two girls high school assignors as well as the boys.”
One of his my most memorable moments in his 47 year officiating career was when he was called on to officiate with Lou Stellato the 1994 girls basketball game between undefeated Class D champion St. Johnsville and also undefeated Class A champion Amsterdam before a sell-out crowd at Amsterdam High School.
“It was standing room only. People were all over, hollering and yelling,” Douglas said. “Both of those teams were very good. You had to concentrate every second because you didn’t want to make a mistake or blow the whistle too early. Louie had a call down the stretch where he had to decide if it was a charge or a block. That really got the crowd going.”
St. Johnsville, the defending Class D state champions, ended up on the winning side of the ledger, 63-42.
After thousands of games, miles and hours on the road away from home, Douglas said he knows it is time to step away.
“I have been been with the bigger schools and I just can’t keep up with them anymore. I have to anticipate more,” he said. “When I was younger I could be caught and outrun them back into the play. I still got beat more than I would like to admit. I don’t want anybody to point and say I don’t belong out there. I have had too good of a run to have people say that.
“Unfortunately, time has caught up with me. I don’t have the desire and drive I used to have. When I was 30 to 35 I would be thinking about the game all day long before I got there. I took the games very seriously. Last fall I did four boys’ sectional games, two class A quarters and two double-A semis. Can I still do it? Maybe. But I know in my mind I don’t have the speed or the endurance anymore. The players are bigger, faster and stronger and in some cases just more skilled. Even with a three-person [basketball] crew people think it is easier but there is still a lot of movement.”
Douglas said that getting started in officiating can be tough. Besides a knowledge and love for the games, young officials just starting out need to be patient.
“One of the things about it is we don’t have enough guys to go watch or help young officials get better or see them and know they are pretty good and ready,” he said. “It is hard to tell a guy he is not ready. I don’t offer a lot of advice anymore but if they ask me I will tell them what I think. There are some guys who are content doing junior varsity and modified games. Unfortunately, a lot of the young officials are driven out by the fans. You get a young ref in his 20s and they don’t last only a couple of years because they can’t deal with the fans.”
After being involved in the sports for such a long time, Douglas doesn’t think he will be attending many games in his retirement.
“I probably won’t go. If my kids were playing, yes,” he said. “If I am not working a game, I am not really interested. If I were asked to go up and do something like evaluate, I would gladly do it. But just to go watch a game, no. People know that I am an official and they probably would ask what did you see?”
Instead he will keep busy at his job as a representative out of the Amsterdam office for Bouchey and Clarke Benefits, Inc., a full service brokerage, consulting and benefits administration agency.
Looking back at five decades of officiating, Douglas said, “If I ever spoke to a bunch of young refs, I would tell them to keep everything in perspective. I missed a lot of things with my kids growing up because I was so hungry and my ego was such that I would say give me a game and I will go. Some guys that just do high school might be better off if you have family. The time and travel involved in college ball is immence. I may have made some good money at it but I gave up a lot, too. If I had to do it again, I think I would do it a little bit different. Kids grow up so quick. That’s my only real regret.”