PIAA Concerned about Referees amid COVID-19

August 17, 2020 / Athletic AdministrationFootballSoccer
The expectations of referees — at any level — are demanding. Coaches, players, and spectators alike expect perfection and an outcome that puts their preferred team on top.

Constant scrutiny, ridicule, and low pay are just some of the reasons why the country is facing a high school and youth referee shortage. According to a study conducted by Referee The Magazine, the average age of more than 17,000 polled referees is 53.

Photo: Harris Walker / Creative Commons

And, now, throw in the start of the high school sports season amid a viral pandemic and the concern of a dissipating pool of referees is growing among athletic administrations.

According to a story from The Citizen’s Voice, the Pennslyvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has seen the pool of referees evaporate first-hand.

“There has been discussion at the state level about the potential of officials opting out because of concerns for their own health issues connected to possible COVID-19 exposure,” Bill Schoen, the male officials’ representative for PIAA’s District 2, told The Citizen’s Voice. “I don’t think that’s any different than any other aspect of society. I expect that will happen and people will be given wide latitude if it does. These are uncertain times and if someone feels that they ought not work because of COVID-19 concerns, then they’re certainly within their rights to do that and they’ll be supported in every way they can.”

Jeff Shook, Lake-Lehman athletic director and secretary/treasurer for the PIAA’s Wyoming Valley Conference, told The Citizen’s Voice that two soccer referees have already withdrawn their names from consideration this season due to concerns over COVID-19.

The PIAA’s District 2 field hockey rules interpreter, Marianna Pollock-Turosky, told The Citizens’ Voice that five officials have cited COVID-19 as reasons to opt out this season.

However, according to Schoen’s estimation, the PIAA’s District 2 employs 500 to 600 fall sports officials, and the majority, he said, is expected to return if and when fall sports resume.

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“Who would have expected this back in March?” asked Schoen in the story. “This is a challenge that transcends sports, for sure, and our people want to be back in when everybody else is back in. We understand that and we’re going to be ready when the schools are ready. We’re just going to train in different ways, but we’re going to use the guidance that we’ve been receiving and that we continue to receive.

“We’ll be ready when the schools are ready.”

To read the full story from The Citizens’ Voice on PIAA referees opting out of the fall sports season, click here