Sports & Society Class Welcomes Guest Speakers

Sports & Society Class Welcomes Guest Speakers
Posted on 04/27/2021
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Recently in Mr. Lambert’s Sports and Society class, taught via Distance Learning, students from Granville, Amsterdam, and OESJ had the opportunity to get a firsthand look at the realm of sports officiating.  Toward this end, members of the class listened to and asked questions of two guest speakers whose work ethic and talent have enabled them to ascend to the lofty ranks of NCAA Division I athletics. 

eric lewis

Eric Lewis is a science teacher in the Greater Amsterdam School District and a Division I collegiate football official.  As he began his presentation, Mr Lewis chronicled his progress from the high school ranks to Division III, Division II (which included some prestigious postseason assignments), and eventually the Division I level.  Most recently, Mr. Lewis has worked in the Colonial, Ivy, Patriot, and Pioneer conferences.  Consequently, he has had the pleasure of travelling to many campuses and officiating a high level of football, often in stadiums filled with very large crowds.

While Mr. Lewis tremendously enjoys officiating and the extent to which it has enabled him to remain involved in a sport he loves, he also addressed the many responsibilities associated with his role.  For instance, as the referee (white hat), Mr. Lewis is the indisputable leader of his officiating crew and is charged with organizing and leading various meetings and training sessions.  Moreover, in preparation for the season, he is required to maintain a high degree of physical conditioning and rules knowledge.  Oftentimes, this requires extensive film study and the completion of online rules tests and quizzes.  

In an engaging manner, Mr. Lewis discussed some of his most memorable moments in officiating, and provided an “inside scoop” regarding some of the conversations between officials and players as well as what happens during instant replay reviews.  Throughout his presentation, Mr. Lewis’ strong leadership and interpersonal skills were readily evident.

Amsterdam student Oleh Blahyi was quick to laud Mr. Lewis’ presentation, stating, “I was very impressed by our recent guest speaker. It is very impressive to see a person that is relatively young but has already accomplished so much in life.”

OESJ’s Colten Christensen felt Mr. Lewis was very enlightening and informative, as he shared, “I was surprised at how much work you have to put in to be an accurate collegiate referee, how much training and dedication is involved, and how time consuming it is.”

Interestingly enough, a few days after he addressed our class, Mr. Lewis worked the Villanova versus Delaware game and was only a few yards away from one of the season’s craziest touchdown passes  (, a play so impressive it was highlighted on ESPN.

Mr. Lewis’ speaking appearance was facilitated by Amsterdam teaching assistant Deanna Palczak, currently in her third year of involvement with Sports & Society.  Following the informative presentation, she stated, "I overheard through conversation that Mr. Lewis had a very impressive second job, which happened to be as a high-level college football official.  Once I heard this, I knew I had to ask him to be a guest speaker for our students in our Distance Learning Sports and Society class with Mr. Lambert, Mrs. Bergen (OESJ teaching assistant), and me. Mr. Lewis shared a wealth of knowledge and certainly showed a passion for his craft."


Connor Hoagland is a Granville graduate, current village resident, and successful businessperson.  A two-sport official, Mr. Hoagland works basketball and baseball at both the high school and college levels.  In baseball, he is on staff in several Division I conferences including the following: ACC, Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Patriot, Ivy, America East, MAAC, and NEC. 

In addition to actively officiating, Mr. Hoagland is a member of numerous officiating organizations, many of which he serves as an executive board member.  In Section 2’s IAABO (International Association of Approved Basketball Officials) Board 36, he volunteers as the Training and Development Committee Director, and he was recently elected Vice President of IAABO Board 142 (Section 7).  For the Adirondack Baseball Umpires, Mr. Hoagland holds a seat on the Executive Board, where he oversees training and membership and acts as assignor.  As he mentioned to our class, Mr. Hoagland’s dedication to growing membership and providing quality training and development is indicative of his commitment to improving sports officiating both locally and regionally.  

During his presentation, Mr. Hoagland discussed the importance of accountability, dedication, preparation, and self-reflection.  This content closely aligns with the values espoused by Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski in Leading with the Heart, the text currently being examined in Sports and Society.  As he addressed questions posed by members of the class, Mr. Hoagland candidly shared his thoughts regarding the avocation of officiating and the challenges faced by youth and collegiate sports officials throughout the country.  In the process, he highlighted the importance of developing skills in the areas of teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution, as these can also be applied to many areas falling outside the athletic realm.

In response to Mr. Hoagland’s presentation, Granville junior and baseball player Connor Farrell commented, “He was very knowledgeable when it came to sports in general.  I thought it was interesting how he successfully balances officiating with his several other responsibilities.”       

Amsterdam senior and Wake Forest commit Carson Cotugno added similar sentiments:  “I think Connor was a truly superior speaker. As a baseball player going into the ACC, a conference in which he umpires, I wish I had more time to talk with him. He went into detail with every response to our questions, which I thought was great.” 

Mrs. Palczak echoed this positive feedback, stating, " Connor had a very relatable tone with our students, sharing his wisdom regarding not only athletics, but  his life experiences, and sharing his knowledge that has allowed him to achieve great success in both his officiating and his own business endeavors.” 

In the days after speaking to the Sports & Society class, Mr. Hoagland was informed of his selection to serve as crew chief for the Patriot League semi-finals scheduled for May.  This highly sought after assignment serves as testimony to his performance, professionalism, and leadership. 

Reflecting upon the common themes presented by our two speakers, Mrs. Palczak observed, "Both Eric and Connor talked about being in their best body health which gives them the ability to strive for an exceptional sense of focused mindset and ample energy for their active roles on the field."

With the fourth quarter underway and the school year winding down, Mr. Lambert summarized the important roles guest speakers have played in the Sports & Society DL class this year.  “This has certainly been a school year like no other.  With that said, the speakers we have had contribute to our class have been tremendous.  From a professional baseball player, to a college coach, to an accomplished college athlete, and now two outstanding, highly competent NCAA Division I officials, students have been exposed to a broad range of perspectives that can’t help but further their understanding of athletics.”