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Ref Availability a Concern Amid Altered HS Schedules

Jason Scott

Even in the best of times, it can be a challenge for high school sports to attract and retain officials. Add in the global pandemic and accompanying disruptions, and you have the potential for a very difficult situation when sports ultimately do resume.

According to the Santa Maria Times, high schools lining California’s Central Coast have tentatively pushed back sports to the spring — with the exception of football, which is slated to begin in January 2021. 

That calls for an extremely busy spring sports calendar, one that could exacerbate a problem that already exists locally, as well as throughout the country: a lack of sports officials.

“One of the things that might happen is we’ll have to tell a school we can’t assign officials to their game,” Los Padres Football Officials Association president Bob Rollins told the Santa Maria Times. “It’s highly unlikely that will happen, but it’s a possibility.”

In a normal year, officials would be gathering for meetings and preparing for the season. But with no sports on the horizon, officials have nothing to do — until sports come back, and suddenly they have too much on their plates.

Mike Ostini, the Los Padres Officials Association’s game scheduler, told the Times that not enough young people are joining the officiating ranks, and that could create difficult circumstances, both for the association and for individual referees, who may have to negotiate scheduling conflicts by picking and choosing which sports to officiate.

Meanwhile, officials aren’t the only ones facing challenges under a proposal for a packed spring calendar. Athletic directors will not only be faced with cobbling together game schedules, but also with reserving facility time for more teams than a particular season typically calls for — allowing fair access for both boys’ and girls’ teams in each sport.

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