Rodney Palen recognized for officiating leadership

By JESSALYN KIRCHHOFF

Tiger Media Network

In January, the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) named Rodney Palen as the National Federation Officials Association (NFOA) Active Official Award winner for Section 5. Section 5 includes the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

“I was more than surprised, shocked to say the least,” Palen said when he was notified of receiving the award. “When I received the letter, I was startled and incredibly honored all at the same time.”

Palen, a native of Beloit, has been a Kansas official for 38 years and is currently in his 30th year as the Director of Building and Grounds at USD 273 Beloit. In Palen’s spare time, he not only enjoys officiating, but he also enjoys playing golf.

Palen was born and raised in Tipton, where he graduated in 1984 from Tipton High School. While in high school, Palen participated in basketball, football, and track, but basketball was always his favorite of all of the sports.

“Back then, we all went out for all sports in high school. I was pretty small, so I didn’t enjoy football as much and I also wasn’t a runner,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t exactly a track star, I still enjoyed participating, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed being on the basketball court.”

Palen’s love for basketball is largely based on one deciding factor that all Kansas residents will understand: the weather.

“Obviously, basketball is my favorite sport as I always jokingly say, ‘I always know what the weather is like in every gym every day.’ I am not a cold weather guy, so I would much rather be inside a gym doing basketball,” he said. 

Palen has an impressive number of years of experience under his belt. Currently, he has officiated high school basketball for 38 years, football for 31 years, baseball and softball for 19 years, and volleyball for 13 years.

In addition to his years officiating, Palen also currently serves as the League Commissioner for the Northern Plains League (NPL), in which he has held this position for 20 years, and he has spent the last eight years as the Commissioner of the North Central Activities Association as well.

Palen got into officiating after taking an officiating class from Terry Masterson while attending Hutchinson Community College in 1985.

“In the beginning, while I was still in Hutch, I worked anything and everything that I could,” he said. “This included junior high, junior varsity, rec leagues, men’s leagues, and church leagues.”

After Palen graduated from Hutch CC, he moved back to Tipton and continued to work junior high and junior varsity games for the district for five years until he finally received a call to work his first varsity game at Tescott with John Froelich in 1990.

In 1991, Palen moved to Beloit and from there, he officiated varsity games with David Dubbert for many years. Eventually, Palen’s brother, Byron, also began officiating and so became the Palen brother officiating duo for the past 20 years.

Although Palen is being honored for this award through all of the hard work that he has put in over the years, he does not take all of the glory for himself.

“This award would not be possible for me if it weren’t for all of the people in my life that have helped me along the way,” Palen said. “I would like to especially thank my wife, Anne, who has spent many, many, countless nights and weekends home alone raising our three wonderful kids, Caleb, Alison, and Vincent as I was out officiating 5-6 nights a week from November through March. I can’t thank all of them enough for everything that they have done.”

Additionally, Palen shines his light on all of the people within the officiating community that he has interacted with along the way.

“I would also like to thank all of the wonderful partners that I have met and worked with within the past 38 years as well as all of the league commissioners, athletic directors, school administrators, coaches, players, fans, and everyone else that I have met along the way.”

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