TSSAA selects Elizabethton local as Hall of Fame inductee

Published 10:28 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Officiating high school sports can be tough. No matter what, there is going to be someone in the stands who thought a call was bad. But despite the troubles that come with being a referee or umpire, someone has to do it.
For the last 48 years, Elizabethton’s Joel Pierce has taken on the job with pride, and last Thursday Pierce received top honors for his contributions to high school sports in the state of Tennessee.
The Tennessee Secondary School Association selected Pierce as one of nine individuals to be inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame at the annual luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Murfreesboro on Saturday, April 9, 2016.
“It is one of the greatest things that can happen to you,” Pierce said. “You work hard for it.”
Pierce entered the world of officiating in 1967, when he worked his first Little League Baseball game. Later that year, he registered with the TSSAA and started calling basketball, football, and baseball.
Not only has Pierce worked as an official for the last 48 years, he has been the TSSAA assigning officer for all of Northeast Tennessee, a job that requires him to assign officials to all of the games in the area he is over. He has also called some big games, such as the TSSAA State Baseball tournament in 1991 and the TSSAA State Football championships in 1992.
According to the seasoned referee, things have changed since he first started wearing a whistle and stripes. And most of the changes have came in the stands.
“It is definitely a tough job,” Pierce said. “You have to deal with the fans, and they are not getting any better now than what they used to be.
“Used to you would never hear anything,” Pierce added. “But now, everything is based on winning. My kids are playing, and we have to win this thing. It is making it tough on the officials.”
The biggest impact of unruly fans, according to Pierce, is the lack of people willing to sign up for the job.
“A lot of people do not want to put up with this stuff,” Pierce said. “Right now, we are hurting for officials. We have had a big drop in individuals signing up to be officials. It is making it tough.”
So what has kept Pierce officiating for so long? It is simple.
“Used to everybody worked together,” he said. “We were all doing this for the kids.
“It is always great when the coaches and everybody worked on the same level, and didn’t bicker and fight during the games in front of the kids, because they pick it up,” he added. “I love it because I enjoy it. I enjoy all four sports.”

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