Jeff James Takes Rightful Place In Soccer Hall
BY DAVE SHEA
The late Jeff "Jeep" James of Parishville became the sixth representative of Section 10 Boys Soccer to join the New York State High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday. The induction will take place in conjunction with the New York State Boys Soccer Hall of Fame and James joined the hall along with two outstanding coaches/administrators in Al Freeman of Nassau County and Ernie Clapper of Mayfield of Section 2.
James was the first Section 10 official to be so honored joining five of the section's coaching icons: Roger Dusharm of Canton in 2003, Joe Daniels of Potsdam in 2004, Jerry Smilgin of Canton in 2007, Tim Hennessy of Colton-Pierrepont in 2011 and Rick Bearor of Harrisville in 2014.
James set the bar high for officials with his ability to control a game, keeping it fun for the players and relating with coaches, players and fellow officials with a soft-spoken integrity accented by his ever present smile and sense of humor.
"What I want everyone to realize is that Jeff was by far the best soccer referee in Section 10 history. He is respected immensely by his peers, coaches, ADs and players throughout his career," said NCAA Division I Tad LeVac who spoke for his best friend at the induction.
"He has given back more than most with the hope of making Section 10 soccer better. In the 25 years that I was fortunate to be by his side, not once did I hear a negative word regarding Jeff's ability to referee. That can not often be said."
Jeff James officiated high school soccer in Section 10 for 26 years in an a landmark career that was cut much too short because of his death in April after a gallant fight against brain cancer. He personified integrity while showing a dedicated love of the game and he throughly enjoyed his interaction with coaches, players, administrators, fans and members of media.
During those 26 years he officiated 625 regular season games, 145 playoff games, 53 Regional games and 24 State Final Four games. He held several positions in his local board of officials. From 2002-2007 he was a High School member at large, from 2007-2017 he was the local interpreter and from 2017-2018 he served as the High School President.
"Jeff's dedication to Section 10 high school soccer and the levels that he has achieved in refereeing New York State High School Soccer matches places him in a separate class. That class is the highest honor a referee can achieve and that is his selection to the 2019 New York State Hall of Fame," said LeVac who thanked Section 10 Boys Soccer Chairman Bill Reed for his continued involvement in the state hall of fame.
"When considering this high honor I have no doubt that the committee knew that Jeff met the following criteria for selection: Contribution to the sport of New York State High School Soccer, personal qualities such as fitness, character, integrity, respect of his peers and most importantly his ability to relate to the players and coaches."
James was also an active official at the collegiate level officiating many Division I, II and III contests. He also officiated high school hockey and lacrosse for several years."
James continued to officiate in three sports when treatment began after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017.
James also held several positions on the New York State Board of Certified Officials serving as the Second Vice President and First Vice President before becoming President in 2018.
"While receiving treatment, Jeff continued to inspire those among us by continuing to officiate at a high level. Jeff's compassion, integrity and love for the game of soccer earned him the respect of coaches, players and fans from all high schools within Section 10," said Section 10 Boys Soccer Chairman Bill Reed.
In concluding LeVac controlled his emotions to thank several individuals in Section 10 and around the state who had helped Jeff James in his officiating career. LeVac also spoke of how he was comforted because his friend is now free of the pain and suffering he endured dealing with cancer.
"I hope today that Jeff is running on a softer field of grass where his knees and back hurt no more. I hope that on that same field is Coach Adam Heck and an assessor by the name of John Hogan. Both individuals that Jeff deeply respected."