Strouth wins officiating award

Curt Strouth of Sheldon can get up and down the basketball court with the best of them.

Strouth doesn’t do it as a player though. The 44-year-old from Sheldon does it as a referee. He’s successful enough at it that he was named the boys basketball official of the year by the National Federation of State High School Associations in his 23rd year of reffing games. Strouth refereed games at the girls and boys state basketball tournament in Des Moines in March.

Side hustle to start

Strouth got his start officiating as a student in Sioux Falls, SD.

“I went to college at Augustana University and started reffing intramural games for just a little bit of extra cash,” he said. “That’s how I broke into the realm of officiating and kind of went from there.”

He went from intramural sports to doing junior high games in Sioux Falls and close by towns in South Dakota like Brandon, Tea and Harrisburg. He moved to Iowa in 2001 and continued officiating games.

“I got registered with the state, which was a very easy process,” he said.

Properly recognized

In January, Strouth heard he had been named the official of the year in boys basketball for Iowa.

“I got a notification in the mail and then a follow up phone call from the boys association to confirm it,” he said. “Obviously, it was nothing that we were expecting and I kind of took a double take at it when it first came through. I’m certainly appreciate appreciative of it and very humbled.”

Strouth said he was happy to win the award, but added that officials are only as good as the people they are surrounded by.

“A lot of the credit goes to those guys that I hit the court with night in and night out,” he said. “I’m surrounded by both guys who brought me in under their wing as veterans.”

Strouth mentioned Steve Wick, Cory Isebrand, Brett Johnson, Blake Reinke and Joel Kraayenbrink as other referees that have been great to work with.

“Those are the guys I got to work with on a regular basis here,” he said. “Without those guys, this wouldn’t be possible. So I’m humbled by it.”

Strouth added that much of the credit goes to his wife, Emily, and his three children too: Reese, a senior; Gavin, a junior and Norah, a fifth-grader.

“They hold down the fort at home on a lot of late nights that we are out on the road officiating,” he said. “They are a great support system who allow me to do what I love.”

Calling all officials

Strouth said there is a huge need for officials across the state of Iowa.

“The Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls Athletic Union have done a good job the last couple years of doing outreach and putting resources available for new officials to get started,” he said. “I would just put a plug out there for anybody interested in it. There are a lot of resources available for you.”

Strouth said going to the IHSAA or IGHSAU websites is a good start to get involved, but there are other ways too.

“You have a lot of local guys in the area that can be resources to connect you with how to get registered. Just give it a shot,” he said. “The main reason I do high school athletics and officiating is it keeps me close to the game and provides me an opportunity to give back to the student-athlete to be able to perform on the platform that they all deserve to in high school. It’s rewarding. Nobody does it for the money. It’s a positive experience for the student-athlete.”

Strouth added there are plenty of good teams in the area, some of them good enough to compete at the state tournament in Des Moines.

“You look at the number of girls teams that are down there this year and number of boys teams that’ll be down there next week,” he said. “You can stay close to a lot of really good basketball.”

Strouth said officiating is a great way to meet new people too.

“Some of my best friends are made from officiating basketball. It literally is a brotherhood and a sisterhood,” he said. “A lot of the people I stay in contact with on a daily basis are officials. That’s been one of the more rewarding things outside of giving back to the student-athlete. Just professional relationships that you make along the way.”

Putting in work

Strouth used to referee college basketball too.

Now that his three children are older though, he put college games off to the side.

“I currently just ref high school games with the desire to get back in the college game after my kids graduate high school,” he said.

Strouth doesn’t officiate any other sports besides basketball.

“Basketball season is a long season,” he said. “You think about starting in November and say tournament typically wraps up in the middle of March, and you work in two, three, four, sometimes five or six nights a week. It can drag on.”

The travel isn’t too bad according to Strouth.

“Typically, our regular season schedule, we don’t travel much further than an hour or so,” he said. “Sheldon’s geographically well placed. We’ll go to a Spencer, Spirit Lake, West Lyon, Le Mars, Central Lyon. Those are kind of the radius that we work out of. We don’t get much further out than that.”

There are plenty of quality teams to see too, Strouth said.

“There’s so much good basketball and so many schools within that radius that keep us busy within the Siouxland Conference, Lakes Conference and War Eagle,” he said.

Strouth said he liked doing basketball but is ready to be done by the time the season is over each year.

“So by the time I was done by the end of March, I think the wife and kids are ready for me to be back home. It’s also a nice time just to kind of unwind from a long season.”

Two bird, one stone

Strouth’s daughter, Reese, was a senior on the basketball team for Sheldon this season. He found a way to combine officiating with watching his daughter play for the Orabs too.

“I’ve been doing some radio broadcasting with KIWA. They had asked me to, since I’m going to be in the gym, to maybe offer a little bit of color commentary on maybe a little bit of the aspect of officiating and just the lens of how we see things,” he said. “So I’ve been able to do that over the last couple of years in conjunction with working a number of basketball games in the local level.”

Strouth added that doing radio kept him busy.

“I’m really balancing the officiating, being a dad and being a fan at the same time. Arguably, I’ve probably been as busy the last couple years as what I would be on a normal year of just officiating,” he said. “These last couple years, I’ve been in the gym probably Monday through Saturdays with the only off night being Wednesdays when it’s church night. It’s been a crazy, busy, hectic schedule, but fun. I would never change it.