by Merrie Sue Holtan
Photography by Thru Him Photography
To say that Chuck Evert of Battle Lake is “outstanding in his field” is a vast understatement. As a boy, Chuck (aka Butch) worked the family wheat fields near Hickson, N.D., where the farm had three bases and home plate — a complete baseball field — permanently etched in the front yard. There was also the football field at Kindred High School where Chuck played three-sports plus amateur fast pitch softball. While working his way toward his chosen field, science and physical education, Chuck attended Mayville State University and North Dakota State University, where he played four years on the basketball court. He became a teacher, coach, principal, and athletic director, all the while running the field (and court), up and down, back and forth as a “referees’ referee.”
The “Official” life
Chuck has spent 38 years as a high school basketball official and 20 years as a football official. He now has charge of 30 officials for the Ottertail Association and schedules games for about 50 member schools. Six officials from this association also work as collegiate referees. Chuck feels fortunate that the system has gone electronic with software and spreadsheets. He’s usually officiating three nights per week during the seasons and runs about 4.5 miles per game, according to his smartphone’s health app.
“I officiate within about a 120 mile radius,” Chuck says. “It takes a crew of five to officiate Friday night football games, and we usually enjoy a meal and good camaraderie after the games.”
Chuck has also served a four-year term on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota State High School League, which includes eight members from 16 regions in the state along with at-large governor appointees and administrators from the principal’s association.
Chuck has officiated at 16 state basketball and 8 state football tournaments. He worked his first tourney in 1981 and in 2014, his sixteenth. Since 2004, he has also served as the Rules Clinic Coordinator for West Central Minnesota as one of six coordinators who provide basketball “officials in training” around the state. Officials are required to take training once every three years.
“I also work as an observer for the Minnesota State High School League, observing officials that want to improve and be eligible to work the state tournaments,” Chuck says. “Observers grade officials on judgment, poise, appearance, and game knowledge on a scale of one to seven. These observations help them reach higher levels.”
New officials usually begin with seventh and eighth grade or junior varsity games. Coach Duane Siverson, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., teaches an officiating class and often calls Chuck to help students get their careers started.
“You couldn’t ask for a better advocate for young people than Butch,” Duane says. “He gives them opportunities to test their skills under pressure with the appropriate support, conditions to succeed, games to work and follow up to improve every aspect of their performance.”
Over the years, Chuck has also enjoyed seeing the improvement in the skill level of girls basketball.
“We really need more female refs,” he says. “They are usually so competent that they leave our level to officiate in college level women’s programs.”
So you want to be an official
According to Chuck, officials must have “certain” characteristics beyond knowledge of the game and rules.
1) They must enjoy the sport along with being tactful and courteous.
2) They must have empathy for coaches.
3) They must be firm, “sell the call,” be able to take criticism and have a “thick skin.”
4) They can’t be arrogant. “If they think they are more important than the game, we have a problem,” Chuck says. “The ref isn’t supposed to be noticed.”
5) Crowd control. Chuck Says, “The best one I’ve ever heard from the crowd is, ‘The potatoes in my garden have better eyes than you, ref,’”
Back to the wheat field
Chuck has been stepping it up in the field since his dad died when Chuck was only seven. He set out to help his grandparents and mom with the day-to-day operations raising wheat, beans and cows. He remembers sports always being important to the family.
“It wasn’t so much about competition for us,” Chuck says. “We played for the joy of it – playing catch with my sister, batting practice with my grandpa. It was never an attitude of winning at all costs.”
Chuck and his sister, Sue, attended country school for the first eight years and then were absorbed into the Kindred school system where Chuck played football, basketball, baseball.
“School was fun for me,” Chuck says. “I was good at geometry, and at home we played school after school. I pretended to be the teacher.”
Deeper into the field
After attending Mayville State for one year, Chuck moved to NDSU with an interest in an agriculture major, and he kept farming all through college. This focus switched, however, to science and physical education while at NDSU. He played basketball for NDSU from 1964-1968.
“We were a pretty good team,” he says. “But those were the years Phil Jackson played for UND, so it was pretty much UND and the rest of us fighting for second place. I loved the experience. Where else could a young kid off the farm fly on a plane to places like Chicago, Texas and Kansas? It was pretty special.”
Following graduation, Chuck became a graduate assistant for the basketball team and kept farming. He met his wife, Cheryl, when he started school at Kindred where they were classmates and high school sweethearts. In 1968, the couple moved to Battle Lake, where he became the basketball coach and science teacher. He also served as assistant football coach and eventually as head football coach. At that time, with two young daughters, Andrea and Alison, Chuck limited his schedule to coaching football and officiating.
In 1992, Chuck moved to Pelican Rapids High School to become the assistant principal and athletic director. The couple kept their home in Battle Lake and Chuck kept on farming.
“The driving miles weren’t too bad,” Chuck says. “And I’d usually get back home by ten from officiating anyway. And did I mention that my wife is a saint?”
Cheryl taught a couple years, but most of the time she took care of Chuck and the girls and enjoyed her hobbies of quilting, working with miniatures and other artistic projects.
“He has had many jobs and says he is retired, but when you look at his officiating schedule, I just smile,” Cheryl says.
Chuck will take his officiating career one year at a time and has no firm plans to retire. He enjoys walking with Cheryl on her two-mile route each day and finding joy in golf and his four grandchildren. He has even officiated at one of his grandson’s ninth grade games in Glenwood, Minn. Of course, he watches sports on television. “After all, what’s a TV for?” he says.
Chuck (aka Butch) leaves a legacy of successful student athletes in his wake and his influence continues to ripple outward in the officiating world. Alex Grove, Concordia football player and first -year basketball official, was trained by Chuck.
“He is very patient and extremely encouraging at the same time,” Alex says. “He helps you before, during and after the game. My dad is a basketball coach in Willmar, and he told me I was in good hands with Chuck because he is one of the best officials in Minnesota.”