Mark Maxwell’s dedication to Indiana high school athletics never stops.
The lifelong Montgomery County resident hung up his football whistle after the 2018 season but was recently recognized as the top football official within his association.
Maxwell’s leadership as the Western Indiana Officials Association President and innovator in how the Indiana High School Athletic Association recruits new officials for every sport has his impact reaching much farther than just Friday nights.
When the phone rang, that Maxwell was going to receive the award, he said under one condition.
“I said the only way I would accept this award is that if I would accept it on what I’ve been doing from a recruiting standpoint. I didn’t get into this to accept any awards,” he said.
Maxwell worked his final game in 2018, which was the Class 5A state finals with Aaron Selby, Chad Hodges, Steve Hoffman, and Darren Haas. It was his third state finals game for football and since has started to dedicate even more time to recruiting new officials — a need that is now more dire than ever with the average age of a high school official at 57.6 years old.
“In my spare time I recruit as many young guys as I can, because it’s about the kids and that’s all it’s ever been about.”
Maxwell says the state’s biggest need for officials are currently in baseball and softball, swimming, and track and field.
A number of years ago, Maxwell joined a committee that was discussing new avenues to recruit rookie officials, and he helped make it a reality with kick-starting a recruitment tent at every state finals event the IHSAA puts on over the last four or five years.
He has teamed up with fellow Crown Point official Andy Simpson, working closely with IHSAA assistant commissioner Sandra Walter in those efforts.
“We’ve basically taken over the recruitment for the state of Indiana through the IHSAA and Sandra Walter, who is the assistant commissioner,” Maxwell said. “She has basically given us carte blanche as far as what we need to do. From a leadership standpoint she relies on Andy and myself to do an awful lot of stuff within the associations to make sur we are always progressing and not going backward.”
While the need for sports officials at every level continues to be a growing problem, Maxwell does believe they’ve made positive strides in recent years. In 2019, they handed out 232 of a possible 240 licenses.
“So, we are making some headway, but there are still some areas where we need to work a little harder at,” he said.
Next week Maxwell will umpire his sixth IHSAA baseball state finals, while Haas will work his seventh. As Maxwell’s time as a baseball umpire is nearing an end, much like it did in football, he plans to continue to help with the recruiting process as long as the need is there.
“It’s a natural progression,” he said. “I think if you want to get involved, then you get involved 100% and you see the areas that need help.”