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Officiating Has Become a Family Affair

February 15, 2013 04:23 PM
The Jacobus family (L to R): Ron III, Ron Jr., Marisa & Brett.
Father and son work the US Open, as Ron III (left) and Ron Jr. served as on-court officials.
By Lisa Mushett, special to USTA.com
Many have heard the old saying, "Like father, like son." For the Jacobus family of Lakeville, Minn., the saying has taken on a whole new dimension: It’s not only one but two sons (Ron III and brother Brett) and a sister (Marisa) who are following in their father Ron Jr.’s footsteps by entering the world of tennis officiating.
Ron Jr. got into officiating literally by accident: six years ago, the 51-year-old Delta Airlines pilot suffered a work-related injury to his elbow after being slammed by a heavy door during a layover at Los Angeles International Airport. It was during his rehabilitation that Ron Jr. met up with former USTA Northern Chair of Officiating Londell Pease, who suggested that the former college star at Arizona State should consider umpiring as a way to stay on the court.
Ron Jr. took Pease up on his offer and has made a quick rise up the ladder, working everything from local junior tournaments to college matches and various professional events around the country.
"Officiating is totally different from playing a match," said Ron Jr. "It is a lot of brain work."
A year later, his oldest son, Ron III, started officiating at the age of 16. "Three," as he is referred to in USTA Northern officiating circles, started with local junior events and has graduated to working professional satellite events around the United States. Now 21 and a senior at Wisconsin-Platteville, he continues to work college matches in the area while taking classes. 
Both father and son attended the USTA Chair Academy to learn the craft.
"I initially started officiating because I enjoyed seeing the other side of the game, but it soon became a job I found interesting and was good money," said Ron III. "Once I started umpiring college matches and professional tournaments, I really saw it as more than just a job."
Following the same fast track as his father, the ultimate reward came when the Jacobuses were selected to work their first US Open at Flushing Meadows in 2011.
"Working the US Open was absolutely amazing," said Ron III, "but being there with my dad made it even more special for me as he was the reason I started officiating and started playing tennis in the first place. For two weeks, I felt like I was not only working with my dad, but my best friend. For me, it really changed the dynamic of our father-son relationship. Honestly, since then I have been trying to find the right words to describe how special those two weeks were, but without any luck."
"It was the highlight of my officiating career thus far," Ron Jr. added. "What an experience! It is something that I will never forget." 
Last summer, Brett, 17, wanted to get in on the fun and worked his first event at the 2012 USTA Northern Jr. Team Tennis Championships. When time permits, the high school junior continues to work junior tournaments and high school events in the section.
"Hearing the stories my dad and brother told me made officiating sound very interesting, and so far it has proved to be just that," said, Brett, who also dreams of one day officiating at the US Open. "Officiating is great for a student because the hours are very flexible and you can pick when you work. Learning the basics hasn't been too difficult either as you just need to understand the rules of tennis."
Not to be left behind, 18-year-old Marisa plans to don the blue and red officiating garb later this summer after she completes her freshman year at Northwestern College in Roseville, Minn., in May.
"All the kids became interested in officiating after watching me work a few events," Ron Jr. said. "I never pushed any of them into it. They came to me and asked me what I thought of them getting involved. Of course, I thought it was a great idea, and the rest is history."
So with almost a full crew in the household now, how special would it be for all four of them to be on the court at the same time?
"Wow, I am not sure how that would go," Ron III said with a sly, yet cautious grin. "It would be interesting, especially if you miss a ball, to get overruled by your younger brother or sister. Still, I think it would be a lot of fun." 


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