Covid-19 creates havoc in officiating

By Joanna Chadwick

Heights and Kapaun Mount Carmel basketball teams were originally scheduled to open the season on Dec. 3.

Covid-19 struck, bumping their games back to Saturday. But while the girls played, the boys game had to be rescheduled again. Cuz, Covid.

Heights and Kapaun boys will play on Thursday. Fingers crossed.

This is a time for flexibility for players, coaches and fans.

“Without question,” Heights coach Joe Auer said. ‘I’m sure that’s the same message for everybody. Enjoy today’s practice and make it a memorable experience, and then let’s focus on tomorrow.

“We’re looking forward to playing on Tuesday (against Northwest), but we’re fully prepared to pivot. I say that as the adult. (The players) were pretty disappointed to find out that they weren’t playing Saturday.”

When games are rescheduled due to Covid in the City League, the school’s athletic directors find the new date.

And then commissioners of leagues have to figure out officiating, which has often doubled their work load.

“It’s a circus, really, trying to figure it out,” said Bob Benoit, the commissioner of the AVCTL, who was at work by 4 a.m. on Sunday. “We change every day. We’ve been changing games before the season even started.

“For the midseason and early season tournaments, we have teams that don’t want to travel, so instead of eight teams in one site, we’re doing four sites. That increased the number of officials we need.”

There’s a junior varsity camp on Dec. 19 in Newton that Benoit hopes to find officials out of. Then the goal is to pair the inexperienced refs with the veterans.

“The opportunity for younger officials is great,” Benoit said.

Benoit said as of Dec. 1, there were 1,441 officials signed up. In 2019-20, there were 1,736.

“Look, we have to do what’s best for the kids,” he said. “… Our whole schedule moves. It’s a floater. We’re doing this for the kids…. If the kids didn’t have us, the parents didn’t have us, their kids wouldn’t be playing.

“We work for the kids.”