I recently got to watch my first varsity football game in approximately 7 to 9 years. I arrived late and their was a little over two minutes left in the first quarter. As I walked up, to take a usual spot by the fence and watch the game, the officials sent both teams to the locker rooms due to inclement weather.

I knew the officials on the field so I decided to follow them inside and visit. This particular crew did something similar to what my crew does. They had one person posted in a position were he could see outside and watch the weather. We were all sitting around discussing rules and talking about the schools recent new field and field house. Every few seconds you would hear the guy by the window say something like “there it is” or “start over” and that was informing the referee to start his 30 minute timer over again. This crew did a very good job as for looking out for the safety of the teams and they followed the guideline for lightning perfectly.

While we were sitting around talking one of the officials started complaining about the weather. Then another one chimed and then before you know it all of us were talking about how we wanted the weather to leave. For the most part officials across the state hate it when their Friday night game is over for the simple fact that they’re going to have to wait another week for their next game. We study and prepare all week for a 48 minute ball game. Some of us do it for the love of the game and others do it not only for the love but to prepare themselves for the next level and to get better.

Well after approximately a 3 hour delay the coaches got together and decided to cancel the game. Not only did it break the heart of a few players, but it also broke the heart of the five officials. Those five guys were disappointed at the outcome but knew they couldn’t do anything about it. I’ve been in that same situation before and it’s a terrible feeling. I felt bad for the guys since they didn’t get to enjoy one of the things they love the most.

As I was leaving the field I over heard person after person complaining about the game being canceled and talking about how the officials should’ve let them play and that they just wanted to go home. Nearly every person I walked by was blaming the game officials. I took my typical action and kept my mouth shut, knowing that the only reason these people were saying those things was due to ignorance. Ignorance for a couple reasons; one is due to the fact they didn’t know the coaches had discussed the contest and it was their decision to cancel and that the officials had followed the guidelines set forth by NFHS on how to handle situations involving lightning. So for following instructions and looking out for players and their safety, most will complain. So here’s to the five guys this past Friday for doing their job correctly. Keep up the good work!

Guidelines on Handling Contests During Lightning Disturbances
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a default policy to those responsible for making decisions concerning the suspension and restarting of contests based on the presence of lightning. The preferred sources from which to request such a policy for your facility would include your state high school association and the nearest office of the National Weather Service.
Proactive Planning

  1. Assign staff to monitor local weather conditions before and during events.
  2. Develop an evacuation plan, including identification of appropriate nearby
  3. Develop criteria for suspension and resumption of play:
    1. When thunder is heard, or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Suspend play and take shelter immediately.
    2. Thirty-minute rule. Once play has been suspended, wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or flash of lightning is witnessed prior to resuming play.
    3. Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the beginning of the 30- minute count, reset the clock and another 30-minute count should begin.
  4. Hold periodic reviews for appropriate personnel.

For more detailed information, refer to the “Guidelines for Lightning Safety” contained in the NFHS Sports Medicine Handbook.
Reviewed and Approved in 2010