September 26, 2022
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Referee shortages in Oregon impacting high school sports

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Lake Oswego head coach Steve Coury argues with the referee over a blown whistle. A mix up between the referees’ whistle and a whistle blown from the stands led to the Rams to halt play, leading to a touchdown for Central Catholic. The Central Catholic Rams played the Lake Oswego Lakers at Hillsboro Stadium in Hillsboro, Oregon, on Dec. 7, 2019. The Rams defeated the Lakers 49-28.

Lake Oswego head coach Steve Coury argues with the referee in a game with Central Catholic, in Dec. 2019.

Kaylee Domzalski / OPB

Oregon has lost nearly a thousand high school sports officials in the last few years — a drop of almost 30 percent. One of the reasons for the decline is the amount of abuse that officials take from parents and other fans at game, which has only increased during the pandemic. Nearly every state in the country is experiencing the same kind of shortages.

Camron Rust heads the Portland Basketball Officials Association. He says it’s not a good environment for fans or players.

“Nobody should feel unsafe out there or feel attacked, whether it’s the other team’s players or the officials or anybody in the facility. It’s just not appropriate for the game to rise to that level of intensity.”

Rust says in the last couple of seasons, he’s had to ask schools to move 20-25% of their games. But that means the officials trying to cover all those games are working more. He says burnout is a real concern.

“And that’s only going to snowball into a bigger problem. If we burn people out more will quit and the problem gets even worse down the road. That’s what I fear.”

Rust says parents and fans need to be educated about the importance of engaging constructively. And he hopes that a rise in pay over the next couple of years will help recruit new officials for high school athletics.



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