June 2021 - 19

OFFICIALLY A PROBLEM
It's long been said that the best type of referees is the
one spectators never notice. But what happens referees
aren't there to even go unnoticed?
As state high school athletic organizations and youth
sports groups nationwide are battling shortages of
officials, the COVID pandemic certainly didn't help the
matter. The most answered responses were very similar
to last year's coaches report, with many offering similar
reasons: lack of interest by young people, problematic or
abusive parents, and lack of proper compensation among
others.
As for the ways in which the problem can be addressed,
the response from coaches varied.
" I coach one sport and officiate another. We need
to recruit people like that. Also, improve mentoring
programs to help novices, " one coach opined.
Recruitment was a word that came up quite often in
coaches' responses.
" As an executive board member of the Illinois
Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, we actively
recruit and scholarship new referees. We provide training
and mentors as well. Provide more professional training
for referees/ officials, " another coach shared. " Increasing
pay usually means paying more money to unqualified/less
experienced referees. "
While scholarships for young recruits to pay for
training and mentorship are a step in the right direction,
another coach took that idea a step further.
" I believe there needs to be an incentive program
for varsity level athletes that are not going on to play
in college to begin refereeing! Similar to a caddy
scholarship. Directly after each high school season,
we could offer free training to those seniors that
just finished their sport (multi-sport athletes would
be a challenge). After training, they could apply for
a scholarship for books/college expenses with the
required 10-20 games or something similar to earn that
scholarship. Obviously, there would be attrition, but you
might get high-level varsity athletes to buy right into
officiating during their college experience, keep them
connected to the game and they'd have the confidence to
come back to it later in life! "
Though promising and innovative suggestions, these
ideas have been brought up in the past and the problem
still exists, leaving some coaches a little less optimistic.
" I wish I knew. "
HOMESCHOOLERS ON THE HOME TEAM
This topic where perhaps the biggest change was
seen, as there was a 10% increase for those in favor of
allowing home-schooled students to compete with their
public school counterparts. Again, with the effects of
COVID-19 pushing so many schools to digital or virtual
learning environments, many are beginning to see that
ideas of teamwork, trust, commitment, leadership, and
communication can all occur without team members
being in the same building all day long.
" We have many students learning remotely. They can
play on athletic teams, " one coach shared.
" Especially during these pandemic times, " another
coach chimed in. " There is always the possibility of
losing good student-athletes to another school if we don't
allow home-schooled students in. "
Another added, " Not every homeschool student has
suitable programs available to participate in sports and
the parents do pay the same taxes. "
Seventy percent of respondents said schools should
allow home-school students to participate in public
school athletics, 10 percentage points higher than last
year, which saw a virtual 60/40 split on the issue.
Despite that, however, there still are coaches
who believe that if homeschooled students want
the extracurricular activities that come with public
schooling, they should be following the same guidelines
as everyone else.
" High school athletics is not a right, but a privilege. You
have to earn it like everyone else, " one coach said.
" I have mixed feelings about this. As long as they are
mandated to do what is required, pay the fees, etc. I am
OK with it, " another coach wrote.
TRAINER-ORIENTED
The benefits of having an athletic trainer on the staff
full-time are undeniable. It is never a matter of whether to
hire a full-time trainer or not. It is almost always a matter
of budgetary resources.
Fifty-three percent of those polled said they have a fulltime
athletic trainer at their respective school. Nearly a
third of those polled said they have some sort of part-time
trainer available for games and practices. Ninety-two
percent said they feel confident that their student-athletes
can receive immediate, adequate care following an injury,
a five percent increase in the last year.
The increase could be looked at in two way: 1) with
fewer games being played there were fewer opportunities
for injuries to occur and fewer games means few
opportunities for athletic trainers to be spread thin or 2)
with athletic trainers have stepped more in the spotlight
over the last year, taking on bigger leadership roles to
ensure the health and safety of student-athletes and staff.
" We have a high-level trainer that I go to first with my own
personal injuries before I see a doctor, " one coach shared.
Another added, " We have an award-winning trainer
who everyone trusts, " echoing statements from another
coach who said their trainer " does an excellent job with
communicating and treating " their athletes.
Despite the heightened awareness, there are still nearly
13% of respondents who answered that they do not have
access to an athletic trainer.
" I have been trained in first aid and CPR and do my
best to keep certified. But I'm it until the paramedics
arrive, " an anonymous coach shared.
Another coach admitted that he couldn't always " say
immediate, because they are only at the school a couple
of days of the week. "
COACHAD.COM 19
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June 2021

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