Justin Ingalls loves to officiate sporting events in South Dakota. Now, he's made it a new job.

As of July, Ingalls is the South Dakota High School Activities Association's statewide officials coordinator, taking over for the late William “Buck” Timmins, of Mitchell.

Ingalls will lead the SDHSAA's efforts to recruit, train and retain officials. Ingalls also supports SDHSAA assistant executive director Randy Soma on football matters, provides insight on how to do things well when officiating, handles situations that come through the activities office, updates weekly bulletin for the SDHSAA, evaluates and observes officials, coordinates assignments and selects crews for playoff games in football, works with the association on administering the playoffs and is the rule expert on officiating.

One of Ingalls' mentors was Timmins and he feels privileged to be handed this responsibility. He said it was the environment as an official and now as coordinator along with giving back to the sport that brought him to this point in his career.

“Maybe the most exciting part about this job is to be able to be in front of people and encourage them to give this profession a try,” Ingalls said. “Giving them reasons to believe and why it can be such a positive influence in their life and the opportunity to be giving back to others, is the environment we want to create and that’s what I love. I’ll always be an advocate of helping somebody with this.”

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Ingalls, a Bryant native and 1983 Hamlin graduate, has been a registered official since 1986. He began officiating high school baseball, softball and boys and girls basketball in Minnesota, while still attending Southwest Minnesota State University. Before becoming an official and attending SMSU to play football, Ingalls was a star athlete at Hamlin High School. He played basketball, football and track and field throughout his high school career.

Within four years, Ingalls graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and education and began his career as a referee. In college, Ingalls had a work-study job to run the scorebook at men’s basketball games. That was when Ingalls got his first real impression of what all officials do and how they are as people.

“I remember the officials would walk in the arena and they were just great people. Absolutely wonderful people,” Ingalls said. “They made an impression that the game was never about them, but there wasn't anything that was going to happen that evening that they weren't going to be able to handle. It wasn’t arrogance, it was confidence.”

Ingalls said seeing these officials as a freshman in college really shaped his perspective on how he sees officials and what they have to sort out in chaotic environments.

“My philosophy has always been taking chaos and turning it into calm,” Ingalls said.

Ingalls began officiating in his second year of college and believes it was the right place at the right time to begin his career.

“The work-study job encouraged me to see the kind of quality of people that were officials and it motivated me and attracted me,” Ingalls said. “I got to know and had some great mentors that encouraged me to try it and I got bit by the bug.”

Referees Colin Kapitan, Pete Hansen and Roy Ward were some of the first mentors that helped Ingalls really start pursuing this career field. Mitchell referee Jim Johnston was another mentor for Ingalls early in his career that inspired him to grow as an official and a person and would later become a friend.

In 1989, he returned to South Dakota and added women’s and men’s college basketball, as well as college football to his responsibilities. While working on a regular basis as a referee, he met Mike Mudder and Steve Krier, who began their careers around the same time Ingalls did and became lifelong friends. Ingalls is still an active referee, working high school and college games this weekend.

Ingalls said he always knew this career field isn’t about money, but about giving something back to a game and the camaraderie of being around people you love, lifetime friends.

“You can never be a great official, unless you're a great person and in reality you can never be a great anything, unless you're a great person,” Ingalls said. “Competition, activities and athletics teach us so much about life and relationships, and with officiating, one of my visions is that we want to create an environment that attracts people.”