Numbers crunch for soccer referees
More than a month ago, the PIAA voted to shift girls' soccer from the spring to the fall beginning with the 2010-11 school year. That move prompted the ire of many in the area, who pointed out that soccer players who play other fall sports (like field hockey or volleyball) will now have to chose between sports.
One of the other criticisms of the move -- one which didn't get as much hype -- was the logistical problem of finding enough soccer officials to accommodate the crunch of games expected next fall (boys' soccer plays then as well).
Despite a recent rise in PIAA official applicants, it seems finding enough referees by next year could be a major challenge.
I spoke recently with Matt Halter, the president of the York County Chapter of PIAA Soccer Officials. He said his chapter, which currently hovers around 45 members, needs to recruit about 30 new officials by next fall. That would be a 66.7 percent growth.
If that seems like a daunting task, well, it is.
"We're in uncharted waters," Halter said. "That's really unprecedented growth for us in such a short time."
YAIAA executive director Herb Schmidt put the number of soccer officials he needs at a more modest 20. But even he hinted that task would be a tall one.
"If you can find them, I'll bless ya' for the rest of your life," Schmidt said jokingly.
Further compounding the problem is the nature of the high school soccer season. It starts in early September. By the middle of October, district tournaments are starting to get under way. Now, two seasons will be jammed into that tight window.
Halter said the York chapter of soccer officials has plans to actively recruit new members.
"We're probably going to try and do some advertising," he said. "We're probably going to do our best to organize at least one local kind of class where people can come in and over a couple of weekends we'll give people basic training and give them the tests so they don't have to go elsewhere to take it."
But can the chapter nearly double its numbers in a year? Time will tell.