High school referees also eager to get back to action | Sports


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Student-athletes aren’t the only ones wanting to resume competition after seven months of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The referees also missed the excitement of a competitive atmosphere.

“The high schools tell us they don’t have any games scheduled (for the fall), but they want us to be prepared,” said Brandon Torres of Baker City, who referees the high school football games. “It’s hard to be prepared when planning your life. “

When the pandemic began in March, basketball teams, including the reigning state champion Baker’s women’s team, were preparing for state tournaments.

The cancellation of most tournaments came as a shock, said Jack Folliard, executive director of the Oregon Athletics Officials Association.

“And in the spring, sports like softball and baseball were wiped out,” Folliard said.

Torres, who has been a soccer referee for 13 years, immediately felt the effects of the pandemic.

He has officiated high school games for the Oregon School Activities Association, US Soccer (club play) and for younger players.

Torres also enjoys playing sports.

“The only sport I really love is soccer, there’s a big group of adults playing too, and we couldn’t do that either,” Torres said. “Not being able to referee in the spring for the Eastern Oregon Football League in Union County and not being able to play at the same time was a big problem.”

In Oregon, umpires and officials are labeled as independent contractors. How they end up getting paid depends on the sport and level they officiate. They are paid by the schools, Folliard said.

“Schools pay a fixed fee per official, per game,” Folliard said. “It’s a little different in every sport, and it’s a little different if it’s a 6A school or a 1A school.”

With the potential resumption of high school sports in Oregon in January, Folliard worked on plans to ensure the safety of officials, players and coaches.

“We’re talking sport-specific whether officials will wear masks like the one we’ve sometimes seen on TV,” Folliard said. “The other issue we’re trying to solve is in sports that require whistles, we’re trying to determine if it could be done with a regular whistle or an alternative type whistle.”

National Football League referees have used electronic whistles, which do not require them to remove their face masks.

Torres said he understood the precautions, but wasn’t overly worried.

“I’m not one of those fear-mongers where I think this should rule our lives,” Torres said. “If I get it, I will stay away from people and improve myself.”

The effects of the pandemic could exacerbate a problem that has plagued high school athletics for several years, Folliard said: a shortage of referees.

“The numbers have been going down for several years, if we lose a lot of officials to COVID we will have a harder time covering matches,” Folliard said. “We need people to sign up to be public servants more than ever.”

Torres encourages those interested in officiating to study sports.

He said he tried to become a referee right after high school, but quit soon after, not returning until years later.

“I thought because I was a player and had been playing since I was two years old, I knew the rules,” Torres said. “If you’re interested, go ahead and take the test, obviously study the rulebook first. Get with a group of referees who are ready to mentor you as an assistant referee.

The future of high school sports depends on students returning to face-to-face classes, at least on certain days.

The Baker School District does not have a schedule for when Baker High School students could resume classes in person, even on a hybrid basis, with students attending school classes two days a week.

If BHS begins in-person classes, athletes could start practicing on December 28 for winter sports – basketball, wrestling and swimming.

The schedule for regular fall sports – football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country – would begin with practice on February 22, and traditional spring sports would begin on April 19.

Torres said he was ready to return to the football field.

“I would be back to my normal routine immediately if that was an option,” Torres said.

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