“A Great Honor” — LaVans Recognized by PIAA

WARREN, Pa. – Once in a while, people come along who put something greater than themselves out front.

Tim and Lisa LaVan are two such people. The LaVans, one of the first “couples” of high school athletics in the region, have given a good bit of their lives to officiating and the development of high school student-athletes.

At the PIAA Officials Convention on Aug. 5 in Harrisburg, the LaVans were honored with Beverly M. Owens-Gaither Award for “consistently showing a devotion to PIAA, interscholastic athletics and the athletes we serve,” per the PIAA. “The award winners show a constant and consistent devotion through their working relationship with the PIAA and its many activities.”

The LaVans helped to spearhead the Junior Officials’ program in District 10. In addition to both being officials, Lisa is the Warren Area High School girls’ basketball coach, and Tim is a district basketball rules interpreter, PIAA championship official and was the athletic director at Oil City High School.

“It was kind of out of the blue,” Lisa said. “We didn’t know anything until about three weeks before the convention. Tim and I are speakers every year at the convention. Tim is a rules interpreter and I give a coach’s perspective on a lot of things. They give out two (awards) per year and we were lucky enough to get one of them. It was a great honor that they would think of us.”

There has been an officiating shortage both in District 10 and across the state, and the LaVans took the issue head on with the Junior Officials program, getting students involved at a young age.

“Like anything, it takes people to take it on and think about it a little bit,” Lisa said. “Tim and I, with our access to young people as a teacher, athletic director, coach and official have those relationships and are able to talk about it a little more.”

And the program has seen a tremendous amount of success in a short period of time.

“It’s different generations,” Lisa said. “Not bad, but different. We walk about the pros and cons. It’s about finding success at the junior official level, not just kids turning 18 and going off to college. When you get them at 16 and they are still in high school, they are looking for ways to make a little cash, as well as obtain leadership skills and build their resume.”

It’s a passion they share, and one they are incredibly excited about to pass along to that younger generation.

“It was the perfect storm,” Lisa said. “It’s about triggering that passion in young people. Tim compares it to the Youth Mentor Hunting Program with the Game Commission. It didn’t save hunting, but it certainly helped. You can take a kid at any age and after a couple of games, they get that bug.”