@FtBendAthletics: A new season begins

By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star

Don Martinez and his officiating crew.                                                                             (Photo by Bill McCaughey)

Don Martinez and his officiating crew. (Photo by Bill McCaughey)

With school having already started, the Fort Bend Star has started a new column, @FtBendAthletics, which, not surprisingly, will be focused on Fort Bend ISD athletics.

The column will be published weekly in the print and digital versions of the Fort Bend Star, and breaking news will be tweeted under our twitter name, @FtBendAthletics. While football will get the majority of our attention, coaches and fans of other sports are encouraged to submit news items to us.

The third team on the field

The offense and the defense aren’t the only teams working to get back into shape before the football season starts. Don Martinez has been a football referee for 29 years.

“Football officials work as a crew and it takes a few weeks to get back our rhythm,” said Martinez. “This year there are several new rules we will be watching for. The first is blocking behind the back. Last year it was legal from tight end to tight end or tackle on the other side. This year it will only be legal in the tackle box, left tackle to right tackle. The other rule is the slide rule. This year any player with the ball may slide and be ruled down at that point. If anyone hits him after he slides, it will be a penalty.”

If you have wondered what the officials discuss after they throw a penalty flag, the conference is for the official who threw the flag to explain what he saw and why it was a penalty.

“Many rules have more than one criteria for it to be called a penalty. For example, pass interference has six criteria and if an official sees one of the criteria it is a penalty. The official will then come to me and give me the number of the offending player and tell me which part of the rule he violated,” Martinez said.

While the home team is responsible for hiring and paying the officials, the schools participate in a lottery system which slots them in a position to choose one of the 76 officiating crews that are still available for their game. Officials earn $70 per game and can work up to three games per week. “My crew will work between 18 and 20 games per regular season,” Martinez said.

Officiating crews are evaluated constantly.

“The officials’ association reviews each crew twice a year. We also self-evaluate. The day after each game, the home team sends me a game tape. I spend most of the day Sunday reviewing the game tapes and making notes and then I go over it with my crew,” Martinez said. “It’s a lot of work, but I love it.”


Due to the nature of head injuries, FBISD has in place guidelines for concussion management, which are in compliance with Texas House Bill 2038. The guidelines state that at each activity, there will be a designated individual who is responsible for identifying athletes with symptoms of concussions. At the varsity level, the designated person is typically a licensed athletic trainer. At the sub-varsity level, the designated individual should be the most qualified individual present, which may be a coach or parent.

According to Richard Gregoire, head district athletic trainer, “The number of concussions depends on a lot of factors. In my experience it depends on how players are taught to tackle and block. It can also depend on field conditions. When it is dry, practice fields can get really hard and a concussion occurs not when the player is tackled but when he hits his head on the ground.”

Travis Head Coach Trey Sissom has seen very few concussions on his team. He attributes it to their weight training program.

“We really focus on strengthening the neck muscles each training session. A strong neck keeps your head from violent movements,” Sissom said.

Once a player is identified as possibly suffering a concussion during a game, he is immediately removed, and a sideline evaluation takes place. The athletic trainer typically takes 20 minutes to determine the player’s condition. The tests are both physical and mental and include physical balance tests and answering questions and remembering lists of numbers or words.

If it is determined the player has suffered a concussion, he is placed in the concussion management program, which usually keeps a player out of physical contact for at least seven days. A doctor must conduct physical and mental evaluations before he signs off on the player returning to the team.

While football gets all of the concussion headlines, other sports such as volleyball, baseball, softball and soccer also have their share of head injuries. Also, head injuries are just as likely to occur to girls as to boys. In a study examining concussions in high school soccer, more girls suffered concussions than boys.

@FtBendAthletics Athlete of the Week

Our first athlete of the week award goes to the parents and family of the athletes, the game officials, and all of the volunteers involved in all of the sports that are about to begin. Without your time and efforts, there would be no seasons.

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