If you have ever attended a high school sports event in Johnson County, you might have occasionally heard a visiting fan yelling at the home team, “What did you do, hire the officials?”
Of course, the home schools do not hire the officials. That is done by 67-year-old Leawood resident Mike Etnire.
Etnire is the commissioner of the Sunflower League, East Kansas League, Kaw Valley League and St. James Academy.
“My main job is to schedule the best officials and umpires to each and every game, for each and every sport,” he said. “I do varsity and sub-varsity for football, volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.
“I’m fortunate to have the best officials in all these sports in Kansas.”
Etnire, a 1963 Shawnee Mission East and Kansas graduate, has also been officiating in basketball and baseball for 30-plus years.
“I started umpiring at 3&2,” he said. “I was mentored by a varsity basketball official (Wayne Hill) to get me into basketball officiating.”
He was the assistant commissioner of the Sunflower League when commissioner Randy St. Clair resigned in 1980. Etnire then took over the job. He added the EKL five years later and the Kaw Valley League three years ago.
What is the key to being a good official or umpire?
“The key to being a good official or umpire is to stay calm, always hustle and have good game-management skills,” he said. “I’m primarily out to provide a good experience for all the kids in all the sports.”
Lenexa official Dick Shoults said, “Mike, in being the commissioner of numerous leagues for 30 years, has mentored, directed and worked with thousands of officials in various sports to provide the most qualified individuals to officiate these activities. His influence is far-reaching.”
Etnire has now retired from everything except his commissioner duties. He was in charge of umpires at 3&2 until two years ago. He still occasionally officiates a few basketball games.
What are his best memories of a long career?
“Some my best memories would be any Rockhurst-SM East games, Free State at Lawrence games and the St. Thomas Aquinas-Bishop Miege games,” he said.
Etnire has impressed the athletic directors in Johnson County throughout his long career.
“Mike is a true professional,” Blue Valley North athletic director Mickey Masterson said. “I have always admired Mike’s ability to work with all the different personalities he deals with on a daily basis from the multitude of school personnel, officials, KSHSAA (Kansas State High School Activities Association) and parents and keep his sanity. His ability to problem-solve quickly is a definite strength.”
St. Thomas Aquinas athletic director Sarah Burgess added, “Mike always has the best interests of the student-athlete when he officiates. He never raised his voice on the phone when things got tense with ADs calling for officials who were late or who didn’t show up. He is every even-tempered.”
BV Northwest athletic director Steve Harms said, “I’ve always appreciated the fact that he is one of the best officials I had the pleasure to work with both as a coach and athletic director.”