Assigning referees and umpires a full-time job for new Sunflower commissioner

03/05/2014 1:44 PM

03/05/2014 1:44 PM

As the new commissioner of the Sunflower, Eastern Kansas and Kaw Valley leagues, John Dehan of Olathe has reverence and admiration for his predecessor — Mike Etnire.

Etnire, of Leawood, had been the commissioner for the Sunflower League since the early 1980s and later added the East Kansas and Kaw Valley duties. He retired from the position following the 2012-2013 school year.

“I have the utmost respect for Mike and what he built in our area,” Dehan said. “Mike left us in pretty good shape in perspective of the officials.

“I’m taking what Mike built and (am) putting enhancements in place.”

He doesn’t have the title of commissioner. His title is Director of Officials.

Dehan is responsible for assigning officials for all levels of play in baseball, basketball, football, gymnastics, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling for both boys and girls in their respective sports.

“My duties are to recruit, train, evaluate, mentor new officials and to develop a more professional officiating group,” said Dehan, a graduate of

Shawne Mission South High School and Pittsburg State University. A non-participant in sports in high school or college, he said it was his father who got him started in officiating.

“I just played in GABL (Great American Basketball League) and 3&2 (baseball) growing up,” he said. “My dad was officiating in GABL.

“He asked me one day to be his partner, and the next thing you know I’m working basketball. That was 1983.”

During his career, Dehan has worked basketball, football, baseball, lacrosse and slow pitch softball, but now he works only basketball and football.

“I’ve worked (Class) 6A state for four years in basketball and worked (state) 5A football this year,” he said.

His career toward his present job started early.

“I started as a volunteer for GABL as a board member,” he said. “I became the assignor for GABL in 1993 and did so for few years.

“After a few years off, I returned to GABL. Slowly over the years I picked up more leagues and different sports. At one point, I helped Mike assign sub varsity games in the Kaw Valley League.”

Dehan has been assigning officials for 14 years, and for the last seven years it has been his full time job. His company is named "Call the Game."

“Over time, I developed a recruiting process, along with the beginning stages of a mentor program, along with an evaluating process,” he said.

At the present time he assigns officials for 55 schools. Most are in Kansas, a handful in Missouri.

In addition to the Sunflower, East Kansas and Kaw Valley leagues, he assigns officials for the Kansas City Atchison League.

And he doesn’t stop with just assigning officials in high school sports. He assigns officials in 3&2 baseball, youth football and GABL.

“This is my full time job,” he said. “I’m the sole proprietor of 'Call the Game.' I assigned almost 30,000 games in 2013.”

His philosophy of officiating is simple.

“No matter the level of the game, that is the most important game these kids have that day, and we as officials should treat it like the Super Bowl, World Series or the Final Four.”

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