Minnesota State High School League leaders won’t call it a shortage of game officials, but coaches and athletes in various sports have experienced frustration when availability of officials comes up short.
Jason Nickleby, the league’s coordinator of officials, praised the league’s “more than 8,000 registered contest officials.” Postponement or rescheduling of basketball and lacrosse games during the past few months, however, showed a lack of enough officials to staff myriad games on the same date.
A new league-sponsored event designed to entice more young people to don a striped shirt and whistle takes place Tuesday. “College Student Official’s Night,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Tartan High School in Oakdale, is aimed at recruiting high school seniors and current college students. Representatives from various sport officiating associations will answer questions for prospective officials.
“We have not done this before, but we are hopeful we will have high attendance which will lead to successful implementation at other locations across the state,” Nickleby wrote in an e-mail.
More officials would be welcomed in lacrosse, a sport in which more than a dozen games were postponed because officials were not available. They included at least two games postponed on April 29 — Rocori at Buffalo, moved to May 8, and Bloomington Kennedy at Burnsville, moved to May 20.
“Do we have a shortage of officials? If the games were spread out, no,” said Julie Carlson, high school league coordinator of girls’ lacrosse officials.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are preferred lacrosse game days. A crew of three officials is preferred for both the boys’ and girls’ varsity levels, though two is enough in a pinch.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Jon Junker, coaches association president and Chanhassen boys’ coach. “You’re happy to see the increase in number of teams playing the sport, but you’re concerned with the number of officials.”
Carlson and Matt Dempsey, coordinator of boys’ lacrosse officials, said their numbers have risen in the past three years to about 120 officials. But the growth of lacrosse and the popularity of games on just two weeknights creates a strain.
Dempsey is encouraged by the league’s efforts but added: “Finding more officials will not solve anything next year. Development is more of a two- to three-year window. It’s great training but a greater time investment.”
In January, a shortage of high school basketball officials resulted in five games originally set for a Tuesday to be rescheduled for different nights.
Lacrosse isn’t alone, but Dempsey takes no solace in that fact.
“We’re out there to support kids who are doing something positive,” he said. “Every time I have to e-mail an AD to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have the bodies,’ that’s a mess for them. We certainly don’t take it lightly.”
THE WEEK AHEAD
Section playoffs: All 16 sections across two classes begin their section tournaments this week. In Section 6, Class 2A, No. 2-ranked Edina is expected to earn the No. 1 seed in the section with Blake, ranked No. 3, garnering the No. 2 seed. Top-ranked Mounds View will be the No. 1 seed in Section 5, 2A. The individual brackets of the section tournaments will begin next week.
State tournament: Top-seeded St. Paul Johnson heads a 23-team field that begins Monday at the home sites of the highest seeds and concludes Tuesday at Burnsville High School, where the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be held, beginning at 4 p.m. Johnson is shooting for its fifth consecutive team title and 10th overall The individual championships are Wednesday and Thursday, also at Burnsville.
Tuesday: Centennial at Maple Grove, 7:30 p.m.; Park of Cottage Grove at East Ridge, 4:30 p.m.; Lakeville North at Farmington, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday: Hopkins at Wayzata, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday: Minneapolis Southwest vs. Minneapolis South (at Van Cleve), 4 p.m.
Friday: Woodbury at Stillwater, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: Prior Lake at Eden Prairie, 1 p.m.