Straight Talk: Brad Rekstad
Brad Rekstad is president of the Minneapolis Officials Association (MOA) in Minneapolis. The association has more than 200 members who officiate football and basketball games in the Minnesota State High School League as well as various collegiate conferences. Rekstad is a veteran basketball official, working high school and NCAA women’s basketball at the Division II and III levels. He also has begun to officiate lacrosse.
ONBOARD: How many people participate in the MOA mentorship program in football and basketball?
REKSTAD: In football, we have 12 varsity crews in which 10 to 20 individuals participate. In basketball, we have 65 people who participate. Each person has a mentor.
ONBOARD: What kind of value do you feel a mentorship program provides the MOA?
REKSTAD: I think it provides a great value to our association. Our mentees are getting a lot of valuable feedback from our mentors as well as other members of our association. Through that feedback, our mentees are able to improve their skills and are working hard to become a better official themselves. Through all of that, we as an association are able to offer a better product to the schools that we service.
ONBOARD: When you first began officiating, did you have a mentor?
REKSTAD: I didn’t have a specific mentor. When I was working lower level games, our varsity officials would come out and were willing to observe while we were working. A lot of times we would call them in advance and ask them to come and watch.
ONBOARD: When did the MOA mentorship program begin?
REKSTAD: Our basketball program kicked off in 2010-11. Football has been going since 2005. The basketball program has been a work in progress. We’re starting to go in the right direction. It’s starting to work well with our associates. The first year had some trying times, but we worked to get it off the ground. This past season, we made a few changes to the program and worked hard to get people to move forward with it. We’ve gotten some good feedback in the last couple of seasons from associates and member officials who went through the program. The football program has been very successful.
ONBOARD: Who selects the mentors and what is asked of them?
REKSTAD: In football, the mentors are the white hats (referees) for the crews. The individuals who are assigned to the mentors is based on the football assigner’s decision. In basketball, we ask our member officials to volunteer as mentors. I am the program coordinator for the basketball membership. I pair up the mentee (associate member) with a mentor and I try to do it geographically to get people as close as I can living-wise. Otherwise, the chances of them being at the same school on certain nights is greater than if I had somebody from one side of Minneapolis and the other person from a different side of Minneapolis. I couldn’t get everybody paired up that way, but it’s pretty close. I’d say the maximum distance between anybody is 20 miles and that’s only a few people. It’s a lot of work and a lot of planning.
ONBOARD: In what ways does a mentor assist an associate or mentee and what is the mentor’s main objective?
REKSTAD: I think in both of the programs, the mentor is there as a figure for the mentee to ask questions, learn about the association and ask officiating questions about the sport itself. In football, the mentor/mentee relationship is a lot closer because the mentee has to go along on two games with his mentor’s crew and sit in on everything that they go over. During the game, the mentee is required to help with the chain crew so he is working on the game and getting a good feel for what’s going on as well. In basketball, it’s a little more challenging but with the geographic tie-in, it makes it easier for the mentor/mentee relationship to be stronger. Most of our mentors and mentees will work hand-in-hand. That mentor is more of a figurehead and a person to bounce questions off of. We recommend that they meet at times during the season and try to work on the same night at the same school. That way the mentor can come and observe the mentee and their relationship gets stronger. Most of the time, about 95 percent, that happens. In the other five percent, those mentees are getting feedback from other member officials who are working varsity games behind them.
ONBOARD: When does a mentee graduate from the program?
REKSTAD: Typically, they graduate when they are elected to full-member status in our association. It’s a minimum of two years that they spend as an associate and then our membership votes each spring on the associates that they want as part of our active full membership. Once they are voted in as an active full member, they do not have to complete anymore of the mentor/mentee requirements in either sport.
ONBOARD: Do some officials have more than one mentor?
REKSTAD: Typically our associates just have one mentor, but that could change on a yearly basis depending on the relationship throughout the previous year and if there is a better geographical setup that can take place. ∗