Joe Fieldsted spent 30 years being questioned, mocked and occasionally screamed at. In January, the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation honored him for it.
The Pahrump resident who officiated high school football and basketball in Utah for 30 years and baseball for 10 years was one of 12 retired officials inducted into the Officials Hall of Honor on Jan. 22 in Provo, Utah.
Fieldsted, now the safety, health, environmental and efficiency manager for Valley Electric Association, got into officiating naturally. Both his father and brother did it for a while, and in rural Utah there was then, as now, a need for officials. Despite 30 years of doing both football and basketball, Fieldsted has trouble picking a preference.
“You know I liked them all,” he said. “They’re just different. Football is a little more enjoyable because the fans are away from the game, but basketball is great because the crowd’s involved. They’re just a lot of fun in different ways, so I really didn’t have a favorite.”
Not having a favorite comes in handy for an official, and Fieldsted said he learned that his constituency was not the people in the stands.
“If you stay long enough, you learn you officiate for the coaches and the kids,” he said. “If you’re trying to please the fans, you’ll fail as an official. You can’t do that. You learn to have a good rapport with the coaches and let the kids play. Then it becomes enjoyable.”
Fieldsted, who worked Utah state championship basketball games in five classifications and was named the state’s official of the year in 2004, grew up in Altamont, Utah, a town so small “there were 27 kids in my grade in school.” He lived in Roosevelt, Utah, a town of about 6,000, before moving here to take the job at VEA.
“That’s one of the reasons we like it here,” Fieldsted said. “It still has that small-town feel to it. Roosevelt reminds me a lot of Pahrump.”
The honor gave Fieldsted a chance to get reacquainted with former colleagues and friends at the banquet honoring the new inductees.
“I had worked a lot of games with some of those guys, and there were other people there I got to know over the years,” he said. “It was a great experience and a lot of fun. A lot of good officials there.”
“You get yelled at for 30 years, so it’s fun to be acknowledged that you stayed in it that long.”
Getting people to stay in it has long been a problem, Fieldsted said. Many sports leagues at all levels are always looking for officials, and they are not easy to find.
“If you can encourage young kids to get into officiating, that’s great, because they’re having a hard time getting officials,” he said. “I’m sure they could use a few more here. A lot of young kids will start, but they won’t stay. You have to work 10 years to figure out what you’re doing. You can’t work two, three years, have a bad game and have people give you a hard time and leave. You have to stay with it.”
Fieldsted stayed with it for three decades, and he looks back fondly at his time on the fields and courts.
“You know I really miss the games,” he said. “I miss being with the kids and the coaches. It’s just fun to be part of the process. I don’t miss the political nonsense that goes on around it. Like anything else, there’s good and bad with it. But I really miss being involved with it. That was a lot of fun.”
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