A shortage of referees? | Herald of the Columbia Basin


COLUMBIA BASIN — The Columbia Basin Football Officials Association is looking for officials for the upcoming school year to help officiate the various sports offered to student-athletes.

“We’re looking for anyone who’s willing to get out there and try to officiate games for us,” Washington Officials Association Football Association President Jeremy Cranston said. “We cover 12 schools, from Lake Roosevelt to Mattawa.”

The WOA, which oversees and serves as a union-like entity for referee associations across the state, is looking for those interested in refereeing, especially for football at this time.

“If you have an interest in football,” WOA Assignment Secretary Mike Mortimore said of what they’re looking for. “We have a wide range of people who are with us – we have young kids fresh out of high school and a lot of older guys.”

Mortimore added that with a significant number of referees being older, they are preparing for retirement in the near future.

“A lot of older generations are ready to retire or are retiring,” he said. “It’s more difficult to involve this younger generation.”

With the number of referees dwindling over the years, the worry of having to cancel matches has become a reality in recent years.

“What’s so important for us to recruit and involve more people is that we were getting to the point where we had to cancel games,” Mortimore said. “We’re all doing this for student-athletes, giving back to them and making sure they have the same experience as us.”

The low numbers also meant matches had to be rescheduled as well.

“When we’re so short like that, we can’t cover every game,” Mortimore said. “We were juggling games, moving games from Friday night to Thursday night, to Saturday. It’s a huge tradition for football to have games on Friday nights. And I can’t contact Tri-Cities or Spokane, because they’re in the same boat as us.

When Cranston started with the WOA, there were about 45 members involved in the Columbia Basin, and with the pandemic driving early retirements, they had dropped to “17 or 18” during the pandemic.

“Now we’re back to about 24 or 25,” Cranston said. “We are trying to piece together those numbers. COVID kind of took some of our older guys who thought that in the next 3-5 years they were going to kind of wean themselves off and retire.

When a new member joins the WOA, they are paired with a team of veterans and undergo training to understand what they can see on the field.

“Right now we have meetings to discuss training and prepare them,” Cranston said. “Rules interpretation, on-field mechanics, what are your responsibilities. Much of it ends up falling on veterans when you’re on the field, actually at the game.

New umpires generally won’t have the responsibility of being the head umpire, Cranston said.

“Most of our first years will start out as what we call wingers,” he said, “There’s a linesman and a linesman on every touchline. This is usually where most guys start.

Mortimore said those who work in high-stress environments usually excel as referees.

“Reffing is great for, I guess what you call, police officers, paramedics, firefighters and stuff like that,” Mortimore said. “People who have high-stress jobs, they come here and do great things.”

While Cranston and Mortimore represent association football, they also represent umpires in other high school sports and said the overall number of umpires is down.

“Everyone is down,” Cranston said of the state of referee involvement. “It’s not just (football).”

The officials’ association also recently changed its compensation process, allowing umpires to be paid more quickly.

“We raised our salary a bit,” Mortimore said, “and now we’re paying – within 48 hours of you officiating a game, you get paid. It’s not like a lump sum at the end of the game. year or whatever, you receive money in your bank account.

Those interested in becoming arbitrators can consult the WOA contact sheet, available at www.washingtonofficials.com. From there, they can select the sports that interest them, choosing up to three. Selected people can also select the schedule they want to work for the games.

“I think the most important thing for a lot of our officials is that we give back,” Mortimore said. “We give back to something we love, we did in high school, some did in college. Anyone who just likes to watch the sport, has never played it before, can come in and umpire easily.

Ian Bivona can be reached at [email protected] You can see more local sports coverage by downloading the Columbia Basin Herald app, which is available on Android and iOS devices.


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