Save Our Sports Nonprofit Recruits and Supports Sports Officials
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If not for a friend’s generosity, former basketball player Kristopher D. Loving Sr. may not have had the opportunity to test his skills as a referee.
In 2014, when Loving was looking to get started as a sports official, the $50 registration fee, coupled with a $100 training fee, plus the cost of shoes and a uniform, was too much to afford.
“I hit a big-time wall,” he says.
A week later, a friend and mentor who introduced him to officiating sent him a uniform and shoes.
“He was like, ‘I hope this can help you get started,’” Loving recalls. “He invested in me.”
Now, with the January incorporation of his nonprofit organization, Save Our Sports, Loving hopes to provide the training and mentoring needed to train more sports officials throughout the Indiana area and, eventually, beyond.
“His generosity is what sparked me wanting to pay that forward,” Loving says of his friend. “Our focus is local, but we have served and helped people in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota based on relationships with people I have there.”
To date, Loving has assisted 25 to 30 people in their officiating journey. Support varies depending on the individual’s need, and can include providing all of the equipment needed, funding their training, connecting them with a mentor, or including them at a sports camp.
Since his officiating journey began nearly a decade ago, Loving has continued to serve as a sports official in Big Ten football, NCAA men’s basketball, high school basketball and high school girls lacrosse.
While Loving hopes to partner with like-minded organizations and groups to further the mission of Save Our Sports, he’s realized early success with several grants to fund equipment, co-working space, consulting hours and professional development.
“The ideal official is a former athlete that just got done playing,” he says, adding that a playing background is not required. “Some of our best officials never played at any kind of high level. There’s such a shortage of officials all over the country. Hopefully [Save Our Sports] can be part of the solution.”
Soon after relocating to Noblesville from Minnesota in summer 2022, Loving connected with SCORE Indianapolis volunteer mentors Bill Petrovic and Bob Miramonti. The local branch of the national nonprofit organization provides no-cost mentoring services to small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
“It was very valuable, very helpful,” Loving says. “They helped challenge me and asked good questions.”
He says Petrovic and Miramonti are “good with motivation,” and makes a point to check in with them often and keep them apprised of updates.
“Our light-bulb moment was, ‘You know you’re really doing a big service,’” Petrovic recalls. “You can learn how to be a good person from being good at some occupation, including being a referee. There’s a lot of life experience that can come out of this.”
Since Loving’s journey as a sports official began, he’s witnessed positive changes.
“I look around at my life and noticed some things, behaviors – my mindset has changed,” he says. “Since I’ve become an official and developed there, it’s affected my marriage and my parenting, my involvement in church. It affected every part of my life.”
Looking ahead, Loving envisions creating a formula for Save Our Sports that can be replicated in each state.
Since 1964, SCORE has helped 11 million entrepreneurs start or grow a business. SCORE’s 10,000 volunteers provide free mentoring, workshops and educational services to 1,500-plus communities nationwide. With more than 70 members throughout the Indianapolis area, SCORE Indianapolis provides nearly 3,000 mentoring services annually to local small-business owners through one-on-one counseling and small-business workshops. For more information about starting or operating a small business, or finding a mentor, visit SCORE Indianapolis at score.org/indianapolis.