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High School Football Officials Adapt to COVID Uncertainties

(Crown Point, IN) - One way or another, Indiana high schools have found a way to play football.  Coaches and players aren’t the only ones adapting.  So are the referees.


Andy Simpson of Crown Point is a 29-year veteran of officiating.  He represents the north region for the state’s football officials association, and he refs football games all over this area.  He says staying healthy enough to play has become a team effort in itself.  All the players he has encountered express joy in being able to play.  And they tell him they're all taking proper precautions in and out of school to stay COVID-free.


Calling the games, however, has become a lot less hands-on.  "It's been different," he says, "I can't reach down and pick the kids up anymore; I can't tap them on the shoulder and say, 'Great play.'  It's just totally different now.  The personal communication effect is kind of gone away, so now we do it from a distance.  But it is what it is.  We need to do the things that will allow us to play football."


A far bigger issue, Simpson says, is finding enough officials to cover the games.  Unfortunately, a perennial shortage of referees has been made worse by fears of COVID-19.  "Some crews, with COVID, decide that they don't want to officiate," Simpson says.  Early in the season, the ref shortage was offset by cancelled games due to coronavirus concerns.  As more teams head back to the gridiron, athletic directors are scrambling to find available officiating crews.  Simpson says school administrators have worked hard to adjust their game schedules around the availability of quality officials.


Right now, football playoff plans have not changed.  Teams and officials are still anticipating a championship march to Lucas Oil Field.  Sectionals begin in just a few weeks.

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