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Section 10 facing shortage of sports officials

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Section 10 is sounding the alarm that recruitment of sports officials is a priority.

“We’re not at a point where we’ve had to cancel games, but we’ve had to reschedule or change the times. We sometimes have to use fewer officials than what’s appropriate for modified and JV games. But we can’t do that for varsity games which, by regulation, must have a full complement or the game must be postponed or the time changed,” said Carl Normandin who is the Executive Director of Section 10 Athletics. “Certain sports are in dire need like girls lacrosse in Section 10 and gymnastics and field hockey in other sections. It’s not just Section 10. It’s a statewide problem.”

Andy Devins is the officials assignor for girls lacrosse and volleyball in Section 10.

“In girls lacrosse, we really need people, especially in Franklin County because we have teams playing in Section 10 like Salmon River, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake and we have few officials in those areas. Most of our girls lacrosse officials are on the other side of St. Lawrence County,” said Devins.

“Volleyball is less of a problem. It’s spread out because they now play every night of the week. But in some sports, many games are scheduled on the same day of the week and no games are scheduled on Saturday.”

Dick Bennett is the assignor for boys and girls basketball.

“On certain nights when we get into the thick of the regular season in January and early February, when we have makeups because we’ve had bad weather, it’s a problem. But it’s always good to bring in new blood regardless of the numbers,” he noted.

Normandin says there are a lot of benefits to officiating.

“It’s a way to give back to a sport they enjoy, a way to stay involved in sports for former players, and if someone enjoys working with kids, it’s a good opportunity,” said Normamdin. “I can see in the future if we can’t recruit more officials it will be a problem. The population of officials is getting older and we’re going to need to replace their experience and knowledge.”

Officials are paid betweeen between $50 and $75 plus mileage for games, but Bennett pointed out another benefit.

“You develop a lot of good relationships through officiating, relationships with other officials and also with coaches and players. Former players come up to you years after they play and they appreciate what you’ve done. And that’s a good feeling. And there’s great camaraderie with the other officials and coaches. It’s very rewarding.”

Meanwhile, the Watertown Chapter of Certified Football Officials have helped out their Section 10 brethren in the past.

“I haven’t talked to anybody on that board this year, I don’t really know just how bad it is,” Watertown chapter president Robert VanCoughnett said. “But I think we’re all in the same boat, though. We need officials and we need people to come out and help out if they can.”

The number of trained and available football officials in the Watertown area is definitely an issue, VanCoughnett said.

“We’re trying to maintain our numbers through attrition because we have older members retiring,” he said. “Basically everyone seems to have busy schedules, so finding enough officials to fill our game needs for the schools that we service on a weekly basis is a challenge. We’ve got a good group of people right now and we’re doing everything we can to increase our numbers.” Robert VanCoughnett said.

“It’s an issue, we do rely occasionally on our sister boards — from the Section 3 board, the Mohawk Valley board and the Syracuse board. If someone is running short, we put the call in to other board and they help us cover games,” VanCoughnett said. “We’ve gone up and helped Section 10 officials. We went up two years ago and helped at a Governeur game when they were short on officials — it’s a constant battle.”

Likely as in Section 10, football officials in the Watertown region are kept busy throughout the season.

“Our numbers are tight this year,” VanCoughnett said. “We had a fellow who went down with a sore ankle a couple of weeks ago ... things like that put a bind on us because we’re all officiating a lot of games. We also service the Pop Warner leagues and the youth leagues around here, so our guys are busy every weekend. ... We’re definitely looking to recruit and get more people involved.”

Normandin can be contacted at his office at 386-4504 ext 15103.

BOYS SOCCER ADDED TO TWC

Speaking of state championships, Time Warner Cable SportsChannel has been televising NYS football since 2003, but has now signed a 10-year agreement with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) to add other sports’ championships to its lineup.

This year, in addition to football, state tournaments in boys soccer (all 5 Classes live) and girls tennis (tape delay) will be shown. Within the next few years, all 32 championship events will be either televised or broadcast on the internet.

Tournament schedules, sites and results can be found on NYSPHSAA’s newly revamped web site (www.nysphsaa.org). Time Warner SportsChannel is available on HD on channel 323 in its central NY area which serves St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties.

Times sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald contributed to this report.

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