Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question below to see the answer.

What is NVFOA?

The Northern Virginia Football Officials Association (NVFOA) is a 501-C non-profit organization that assigns football officials to public and private schools in the Northern Virginia / Metropolitan DC area. We also have a working agreement to assign officials to certain recreational level games in the Northern Virginia area.

Who can join?

Membership is open to men and women who are at least 18 years old and who have a desire to become part of the most exciting and popular scholastic sport in America. This includes:

  • Experienced/Transfer Officials (If you can document and verify at least one full year of varsity experience).
  • Prospective new field officials.
  • Prospective clock operators.

If you are ready to be part of the greatest game in high schools sports, Apply Now!

Do I need any prior experience?

No. The NVFOA will provide you with the necessary classroom and field training to become an on-field football official or Electronic Clock Operator (ECO).

I've never played football, can I still be a football official?

Absolutely. We provide all of the training necessary to become a good official. Those who have previously played the game may have a little bit of a head start with rules knowledge and their feel for the game but it is nothing that a little extra effort won't overcome. Becoming a good official simply requires a love of the game of football, the willingness to study and learn the rules, and putting in the time to officiate games in order to gain experience.

What does a football official do?

The primary responsibility of any officiating crew is to ensure that the game is played fairly and safely between two opponents. Each individual official on the football crew will be responsible for a particular area of play and will use "keys" to read the play and determine their coverage area. The various areas and "keys" will be based upon which position on the field they are working. A good crew is one where each official covers his area of responsibility and trusts the other officials to cover theirs.

What are the benefits of officiating?

As you start officiating the benefits you will enjoy are almost too long to list. There are a number of benefits that are enjoyed by all officials, while other benefits are much more personal and are determined on an individual basis:

  1. It's a great way to stay involved in the sport. The great thing about being an official is that you are an active participant in the game and you actually get to be on the field and not on the sideline or in the stands.
  2. Officiating is a way to give something back to the community. The sports official is a role model who is charged with enforcing the concepts of fair play and good sportsmanship. It provides a unique opportunity to positively influence young people.
  3. Officiating affords an individual the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills and to hone one's judgment skills. Football officiating requires you to make instantaneous decisions, resolve conflicts, and deal with stress and pressure. It demands good communications skills and the ability to think on your feet. The ability to work a game fairly and smoothly is a skill one can be proud of.

You could also add such benefits as it's a great way to make some spending money, it's a great way to stay in shape, and the making of lifelong friendships. In any case, one's understanding of the game and the intricacies of the game is enhanced. You will never look at the game the same way again.

What qualities or skills do I need to be a good official?

Several other factors to that make someone a good official include the knowledge of field mechanics and positioning, communication skills, good "people" skills, the ability to take criticism, game experience, and the willingness to learn from others.

  1. Judgment: A good official is not someone that sees everything and throws a flag for every violation they see. A good official is one that sees a violation but can determine which ones need to be penalized.
  2. Rules knowledge: A good official will know the rules. The NFL, college, high school, and recreation league games all have differences in their rules. An official must know the rules and any published rule interpretations for the level they are working.
  3. Appearance/Fitness: There are two major issues with your appearance and fitness. First, if you look fit and look the part of a good official then the coaches and players are more likely to respect your ability to officiate the game. Second, a good official can easily cover 3 to 5 miles in a game. You owe it to the players, the coaches and, more importantly, your fellow officials to ensure that you are able to handle your duties and cover your areas of responsibilities.

Several other factors to that make someone a good official include the knowledge of field mechanics and positioning, communication skills, good "people" skills, the ability to take criticism, game experience, and the willingness to learn from others.

What does the NVFOA Training Program consist of?

The NVFOA training program begins each year in June and runs through the end of the season in mid-November.

  • Prior to the season starting, trainees meet generally twice a week for approximately 2 - 2 ½ hours. One half of this instruction is devoted to rules study and rules interpretations. The second half is spent going over field mechanics and positioning on the field. Occasionally evening classes will be spent on the football field going over mechanics. In addition, there will be a few Saturday morning on-field sessions designed to provide more in depth field training.
  • A couple of weeks prior to the season, all trainees will be assigned to work at numerous scrimmages and team practices. During these sessions, the trainee will get to work side-by-side with an experienced official who will provide them with one-on-one instruction.
  • After the season starts, trainees will learn primarily through their game experiences and their interaction with experienced officials. Training classes will continue to be held once a week to review game situations and to answer questions that may arise.
  • If you are a first year trainee you will focus on learning 4-man mechanics while 2nd year trainees and Transfer officials will fine tune their 4-man mechanics and will begin learning the 5-man mechanics they will use on varsity games. See the most recent training schedule by clicking on the Training Program link above.

When does the NVFOA Training Program begin?

Training classes for first year, second year, and transfer officials typically begins in June each year. Classes are held twice a week through the end of August, with additional sessions scheduled as necessary. To see the most current training schedule click on the Training Program link above.

When and where are training classes held?

Training classes are usually held on Tuesday and Thursday nights starting at 7:00 PM. Currently classes are held at Fairfax High School, Fairfax, Virginia. The classes are scheduled to be over by typically no later than 9 PM. Prior to the season starting, there are occasional Saturday on-field training sessions that will start in the morning and be completed by noon. Click on the Training Program link above for more detailed schedule information.

How long does the training process last?

A good official will tell you they are always learning so training never ends. However, the NVFOA's official training program for entry-level officials is currently a two-year program.

During their first year, the trainees focus on learning the rules of the game and the mechanics used by a 4-man crew in positioning themselves on the field and dealing with their respective areas of responsibility. The second year focuses on fine-tuning 4-man crew skills, unusual game situations, and learning the 5-man crew mechanics necessary to officiate at the varsity level.

Upon successful completion of the training program, trainees are made regular members in the NVFOA and are eligible for assignment to a varsity crew on a full time basis.

How much of the training do I have to attend?

You will be expected to attend a minimum of 50% of all classroom and field training sessions in order to qualify for advancement to the next level (e.g. - first year trainee to second year, second year trainee to regular member).

There is a lot to learn when becoming a high school football official. The officiating crew is actually the third team on the field and everyone must work together to ensure that the best outcome possible is achieved. Attendance at training sessions is vital, and it is the only way to gain the knowledge necessary to understand the responsibilities of the on-field position you are working as well as the responsibilities of the other positions on the field. Click on the Training Program link above to see the most recent training schedule.

I already have prior experience as a football official, do I still need to go through the NVFOA training program?

All officials who are new to the NVFOA must attend at least one year of the training program. This is done in order to allow you to learn the NVFOA's mechanics, our policies, and our procedures.

Transfers, however, are given a special status within the training program and are placed in the same training program as second year trainees. Transfer officials and those other officials with prior varsity experience may be assigned to work varsity games while in the training program. The assignment of varsity games will be based on several factors including performance during pre-season field training, the recommendation of the previous association, the individual's availability, and the NVFOA's manpower requirements on any given day.

Will I officiate varsity games as a first-year trainee?

Probably not. We owe it to the schools, as well as the members of our association, to ensure that we only put the best product possible on the field to officiate at the varsity level. Our experience has shown that no matter how much football you have played, coached, watched, etc., officiating requires a totally different perspective on the game.

Each year, at the end of training, we always have trainees that tell us that they attended the first night of the training class thinking that they could officiate a varsity level game. They tell us that by the end of training they realized that they weren't ready and were grateful to get a year of experience under their belt because there was just too much to learn.

What kind of games will I officiate?

All NVFOA regular members and trainees work on the field for games at the recreational, middle school, freshman and junior varsity (JV) level. In addition, all members will also be assigned to work in the booth as Electronic Clock Operators (ECOs).

  • First year trainees will work games at the recreational, middle school, freshman and JV levels. This is so you can gain valuable field experience in applying the rules of the game and in using NVFOA mechanics. First year trainees will also be assigned as ECOs for varsity games to allow them to observe an experienced crew and to gain experience working in a varsity crew environment.
  • Second year trainees work the same types of games as the first year trainees. However, based on their previous performances in training and based on the needs of the association, second year trainees may be assigned to fill vacancies on varsity on-field assignments.

When, and where, are games played?

Games at the various levels can be played Monday through Saturday, with occasional Sunday games taking place, but Sunday games are on a volunteer basis.

  • Recreational level games are primarily played on Saturday, however, there are occasional weekday games. Games on Saturday can start as early as 8:30 AM and start as late as 8:00 PM. Games are played at numerous city and county parks, as well as at some of the local schools.
  • Middle School games are scheduled on numerous days during the week, but usually occur on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday afternoons. These games usually start between 2:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon and are played at the home team's school.
  • Freshman and JV games are usually played as a "back-to-back" set, the freshman game starting as early as 5:30 PM and the JV game starting as late as 7:30 PM or immediately after the freshman game. Wednesday and Thursday nights are the heaviest days for Freshman/JV games but there will always be a small number of games taking place on the other days. Games are usually played in the home team's school stadium. There are very few Freshman and JV games that are played on weekday afternoons, and they usually start around 3:30 to 4:00 PM.
  • Varsity games are played primarily on Friday nights starting at 7:00 and 7:30 PM. There are a few schools who do not have lights and therefore play their varsity games on Saturday afternoons starting anywhere from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. Again, the games are usually played in the home team's school stadium.

These are just the general guidelines when it comes to game dates and times. As always, there are exceptions based on each individual school. Other changes may occur during the football season due to periods of inclement weather or other events, e.g., religious holidays, high school SAT dates, etc.

How much is an official paid?

Payment for officiating games will vary by conference, county, and level. In 2012, fees are as follows:

  • Field officials for recreational level games earn approximately $38 - $48 per game.
  • Field officials for Freshmen and Junior Varsity (JV) games are paid approximately $60 - $65 per game.
  • Field officials for Varsity level games will earn approximately $75 - $95 per game.
  • In addition, officials working as Electronic Clock Operators (ECOs) earn approximately $48 - $60 a game.

How much money can I make as an official?

Almost every official will tell you that you don't do this for the money. It's about the love of the game, the camaraderie with your fellow officials and, most importantly, you do it for the kids who play the game.

However, the amount of money you can earn will depend solely on your availability and the number of games you work. Most of the officials in the NVFOA earn between $1,500 and $2,500 in a season, with some very active members earning into the $3500 to $4000 range. People who make themselves available to officiate more games, or those that call to accept vacancy announcements, have been known to earn the higher amounts.

Payment for the games you work during a season is paid through the NVFOA. This payment is issued in a lump-sum check at the end of the season, usually in mid-to-late December depending on the receipt of game fees from the schools and leagues the NVFOA services.

Also, keep in mind that all expenses related to officiating (mileage, uniforms, meals while traveling, etc) are tax-deductible.

What does it cost me to get started?

The initial registration fee to join NVFOA is currently $65.00. This lump sum covers a number of items including your mandatory state liability insurance, annual dues for NVFOA membership, rules and mechanics books, and the cost of your training materials. You will also have to pay a fee every year when you register with the state organization (VHSL - Virginia High School League). 

Every subsequent year, the association dues are automatically deducted your annual NVFOA dues, as well as an assigning fee to help defray the administrative costs of running the association. The initial cost of purchasing the uniforms and equipment necessary to officiate will cost somewhere between $200 and $250. This cost will vary depending on the company you purchase from and the amount of equipment you purchase.

My work schedule varies or requires that I make frequent trips out of town, can I still officiate?

Yes. Prior to the season starting you will provide the NVFOA Commissioner with an availability sheet. This allows you to block out any dates that you cannot officiate.

Games are assigned to you based on the dates that you say you are available to work and, in the case of sub-varsity weekday games, whether you prefer to work close to work or close to home.

If your availability changes, or last-minute situations arise in your schedule, you simply need to contact the Commissioner's office to have them schedule a replacement.

I love football but the time commitment for training, or my physical capabilities, limit my ability to officiate on the field, can I still be involved in officiating?

Absolutely. If this is the case, consider joining the NVFOA as an Electronic Clock Operator (ECO). Electronic Clock Operators are a key member of the officiating crew. Having a knowledgeable and reliable ECO takes a huge burden off of the officiating crew and allows the on-field officials to fully concentrate on the game without having to constantly check to make sure the clock is being worked correctly.

If you love the game and want to stay involved, please consider working for the NVFOA as a dedicated Electronic Clock Operator. You can also consider becoming an official for any one of the numerous recreation and youth leagues in your area. The time commitment for games and training for officials in these leagues is generally much less than for someone who desires to work at the high school level.

OK, how do I get started?

Fill out an application on the Join the NVFOA page and send it, along with the registration fee, to the Commissioner of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association at the address listed on the application.

How can I contact a representative of NVFOA?

For additional information about the NVFOA Training Program activities, or to be contacted personally, click here. You may also click on the Contact NVFOA tab above.

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