A former NFL officiating chief is helping military veterans find work as youth sports referees through a nonprofit organization called “Battlefields 2 Ballfields.”
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Founded by Mike Pereira, who served as the NFL’s vice president of officiating in the 2000s, Battlefields 2 Ballfields trains veterans to be referees in a variety of sports. The organization pays for the veterans’ uniforms, equipment and membership dues with local referee associations, the New York Post reported this week. The veterans attend officiating classes and hone their skills at Saturday scrimmages.
Pereira told the Post he came up with the idea for the nonprofit group while thinking about possible solutions for referee shortages in youth sports. He noted that traits instilled in military veterans, like “discipline, the ability to concentrate, [and] lack of fear” were ideal traits for a sports official.
“Suddenly, I started thinking about my days when I ran the NFL program — that’s exactly the type of person I was looking for when I recruited officials,” said Pereira, who currently serves as an analyst for Fox Sports’ NFL coverage.
Battlefields 2 Ballfields did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment on its fundraising efforts or training costs. The organization counts Getty Images and the National Association of Sports Officials among its corporate sponsors.
After training six former veterans in 2016, Battlefields 2 Ballfields expanded to 68 trainees for the fall of 2017. Pereira reportedly hopes to train 1,000 veterans nationwide in the next three years.
“Many vets look to get back into their communities and aren’t necessarily well-taken-care-of,” said Pereira. “Once you get into this, there’s a uniqueness to it. It’s an incredible feeling. You think parents and kids yelling will bother vets? No. It’s not going to be easy, but working with kids is very rewarding.”
Battlefields 2 Ballfields accepts applications for training scholarships on its website. Applicants must be U.S. military veterans that are at least 18 years old.