Pamplin Media Group – Preparation Issues: Shortages Could Disrupt High School Sports in Oregon


Lack of civil servants and drivers statewide is causing headaches for administrators

With just days to go into the new fall season, athletic directors at state high schools are scrambling to deal with staff shortages in several areas.

The problems facing Oregon high school sports are multi-layered, but the two main causes of headaches this summer have been the lack of officials – umpires, umpires, etc. – as well as a shortage of bus drivers to get teams from one school to another. In some places there just aren’t enough kids to support some sports, like what happened with South Eugene and their canceled football season.

These issues made it difficult, if not impossible, to play some games as previously agreed. This reality means that athletic directors always finalize their schedules, even with jamborees, endowment games and exhibitions of all kinds starting in just a few days.

The problem with officials isn’t just a problem in Oregon, Madras High School principal Daniel Barendse said.

“The official problem is not just regional but national,” Barendse said. “The pandemic has the Officials Association 60-70% normal,” he noted, referring to the number of registered officials who will be working at each sporting event this fall.

In an OSAA memo obtained by the Pioneer, the state’s governing body told its athletic directors that there is “little optimism that we will be able to completely fill the gap. empty before the start of competitions “. The memo went on to say that “some areas of the state have been hit harder than others and will therefore have a harder time getting civil servants to cover the competitions.”

“It’s not ideal,” said Crook County High School athletic director Rob Bonner.

“The local commissioners are doing a fantastic job,” he noted. “It’s frustrating for them not to have enough officials, but they are doing a great job.”

Bonner was quick to stress the importance of officials. He also pointed out that while he would actively recruit interested local citizens to sign up to help the cause, the problem is more complex than just finding hot bodies.

“It takes a special person to be an official,” Bonner said. “Good officials make the competition better.”

He also noted that he was happy to see some encouraging trends at the local level, citing examples of retired young wrestlers and basketball coaches finding their way into the officials pool.

With all the legitimate attention children receive on the field, it can be easy to overlook the important role officials play in sports at all levels. Sure, fans (and especially parents) notice umpires and umpires when they disagree with a call they made or didn’t make, but the truth is, people in the stripes do. much more often than they are wrong. More importantly, the games just can’t go on without them.

(Full disclosure: My dad was an OSAA basketball umpire as a kid and I spent many nights sitting in gyms in places like Eddyville and Pleasant Hill, so I have a thing for stripes. )

As for the problem with the drivers, Barendse and Bonner recognized it as a logistical nightmare. Without enough drivers, some school districts might not be able to support sports transportation.

“A lower number of bus drivers creates problems for many of us,” said Barendse, who is also deputy principal of Madras High School. “It creates problems for schools on many levels.”

With teams traveling for hours in just about every direction in the state, Bonner noted that “self-transport” – where athletes and their families take responsibility for arranging their own trips to games at. outdoors – not ideal because when schools use contracted transport they don’t have to worry. “Among those concerns, Bonner said, are considerations like insurance, training and the driver’s ability to deal with inclement weather.

“We’re always on the lookout for good bus drivers, but we’re going to have to get creative.”

Bonner mentioned that many sports teams will stack their JV and varsity games back to back, so the same team of officials can work on both events. As state sports administrators continue to consult on these issues, more creativity is surely on the way.

Fortunately – if that word can truly apply here – almost every school in the state faces these issues.

“Everyone’s in the same boat,” Bonner said with a laugh, “so we all work really well together.”

In fact, the OSAA memo asked exactly that of its members.

“It is clear that in the future, member schools will have to continue to be extremely flexible and ready to adjust competition dates if your local commissioner requests it. There will be situations where there simply won’t be enough. of officials to cover scheduled competitions. Schools are strongly encouraged to be part of the solution in these cases, rather than exacerbating the problem by refusing to adjust schedules as necessary. ”

There are other external factors that are causing the uncertainty as well, such as mask warrants for indoor sports, crowd size at events, and other issues stemming from the COVID pandemic. 19 in progress. As it stands, athletes actively participating in indoor events do not have to wear masks, but coaches and spectators do. For now, outdoor sports are unaffected by the new statewide mask mandate.

With a return to normal so close, and with so much that seems to stand in the way, it would be easy to be negative about the situation.

Bonner, however, takes a different approach.

“New things are appearing every day,” said Bonner, “but at the end of the day, the backbone of a regular season is already there.”

“Today it still seems normal.”

For those wishing to become official, contact the OSAA website at Although the rules clinics for fall sports have already passed, registrations for winter and spring sports for the 2021-22 school year are still open and the association is actively seeking new members.

For those interested in becoming a bus driver, contact your local school district, either by phone or through the district’s website. Jefferson County School District 509J can be contacted at (541) 475-6192 or through the web at The Crook County School District can be contacted at (541) 447-5664 or through the web at

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