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It is a crisis; more officials are needed in order for games to go off as planned

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - Lon Austin, sports reporterFor several years now there has been a shortage of officials for high school sports.

This year that shortage has hit critical mass in Central Oregon. There are so few officials available that several sports schedules are having to be changed in order to have enough officials to play.

The Central Oregon Football Officials Association has 33 officials available for the season. With 10 schools playing football in Central Oregon, that means that schedules have had to be adjusted with some varsity games being moved to either Thursday or Saturday in order to accommodate the officials. That has impacted Crook County as games against Redmond and Baker have both been moved to Saturday afternoons.

Soccer also has a shortage of officials, which has led to creative stacking of varsity and JV games. Some games may have to be moved either to different times or different days as well. In addition, don't be surprised if there aren't games with fewer than the three officials, including potentially subvarsity games with just one official.

However, it is volleyball where the officiating shortage is most pronounced. At last report, there were just 11 volleyball officials available in Central Oregon. With varsity matches normally using four officials and subvarsity matches using two, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that normal official coverage of games will be impossible.

Don't be surprised if you see a subvarsity tournament with coaches or parents doing the officiating, or a varsity match with just one official. Crook County has frequently used volunteers for line judges at matches, and this year that will be even more important than normal.

All three officials associations are looking for interested individuals who are willing and able to officiate. Knowledge of the sport is a plus, but most important is the willingness to learn as the officials associations will do all the training.

It is also important to recognize that with the official shortage there may well be some officials who would normally only be qualified to officiate subvarsity matches working in varsity competition. It is important that spectators understand the situation and act accordingly. Yelling at officials for a possibly incorrect call will not help the situation — in fact, it might make things worse.

Saturday at the Cowboys' Blue & Gold scrimmage, an official who was working to help train the officials on the field was wearing a T-shirt with an important message that fans need to remember. It said something like: "I could change my call, but then we would both be wrong."

Of course, officials don't get every call right, but the message is still important. Yelling at officials is never a good idea. Yelling at officials when there is an officiating crisis is just plain a bad idea.

Resist the urge. Support the players. Be kind to the officials and show your appreciation. Failure to do so could seriously jeopardize an entire sports season as no officials, no game. And, if you really think you know the rules better than the official that you are tempted to yell at, then grab a whistle, attend the officiating meetings, and prove it. Otherwise, unless you have something nice to say about the officials, please keep your mouth shut. We will all be better off.

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