by John Unrein
Involvement in athletics and officiating is a family affair for Grain Valley resident Kevin Driskell. His brother Darrell pushed him to become an official and his second cousin, Brian Driskell is the head varsity baseball coach at Grain Valley High School.
The youngest of four siblings who were born and raised in Independence, MO, (Kevin) Driskell was a three sport high school student athlete. Being an official for 37 years (33 years certified in Missouri) has permitted Driskell to stay close to the sport of basketball. Driskell enjoys watching up close the development of student athletes in the game he loves.
“I get to be physically active. Being a basketball official is part of being an adrenaline junkie. You get to run up and down the floor, sweat, and players and coaches are in your ear,” Driskell said.
“Even in the locker room before tipoff, you still feel the excitement. You know you’re going to be in the middle of the action. The camaraderie of being around other officials and coaches who have a passion for the game is special.”
Driskell is thankful that along the way he’s had family and mentors to lean on for advice in a demanding job. Driskell’s brother Darrell scheduled his first ever officiating gig with a private school. Driskell also worked youth games as a novice to gain experience.
Driskell credits retired former Independence School District elementary teacher Don Robinson as being a positive advisor. Robinson was a sought after high school official for many years who was generous with his knowledge and time in supporting Driskell. The weight of that gesture is something that Driskell still feels to this day.
“Having a mentor saved me some heartache. Working in management and raising three kids through adolescence has pushed me to give people the benefit of the doubt as an official. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life outside of sports,” Driskell said.
“Being challenged in a manner that’s inappropriate may have caused people to see me in a light they’ve never seen before. There’s a consequence to every choice made in life. You always try to be as positive as possible. If you are in your chosen profession and enjoy what you’re doing, you’re right where you’re supposed to be.”
Driskell has been honored to work the Show-Me Games in 2006, 2011, and 2015 in Columbia, MO. Getting to referee the first basketball game between the Truman and Chrisman girls’ teams at the Independence Events Center is also a fond memory. Driskell still believes that the value of competition and providing fair play outweighs changes he’s seen in sports recently.
“Society has changed drastically in the last five to six years. Minimizing the adversarial nature of how people view officials would be beneficial for the sport and all involved,” Driskell said.
Driskell believes joining the Greater Kansas City Officials Association is the best way for someone to become an official. Contacting a high school athletic director or head coach you know is a good avenue as well due to their connections. Seeking them out for advice is something they would be more receptive to then you think according to Driskell, even if you are worried they won’t have the time.
Admitting that everyone, including officials, make mistakes comes with the territory as a human being. Driskell shared that as part of one of the funniest things that’s happened to him in his tenure as an official.
“I was selected by the state to work a quarterfinal playoff basketball game at the Independence Events Center. The two other veteran officials who were working with me combined to make up 85 years of experience on the floor,” Driskell said.
“Sometimes the home team doesn’t always know they are the home team when you play at a neutral site. We had the teams going the wrong way at tipoff. It was a situation we got corrected shortly after the start of the game.”
Grain Valley resident Kevin Driskell serves as a MSHSAA official.
Photo courtesy: Kevin Driskell