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Week of sports postponents takes a toll on ADs, refs

A high school basketball referee works the floor during a 2021boys basketball game. Be happy to see the refs. It means your game hasn't been postponed due to bad winter weather. Tim Middagh / The Globe
A high school basketball referee works the floor during a 2021boys basketball game. Be happy to see the refs. It means your game hasn't been postponed due to bad winter weather. Tim Middagh / The Globe
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In every winter season of high school sports, the need to postpone, reschedule or cancel events is expected. But it doesn’t always happen that a full week of activities get snowed under.

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Such was the case last week when games and meets scheduled Monday through Friday fell by the wayside.

One day, maybe even two days -- that’s frustrating enough for athletic directors, players, fans and referees. An entire week, that’s certifiably unusual, even in this state.

Athletic directors in southwest Minnesota clearly had their work cut out for them last week.

“It takes two to reschedule,” Matt VandeKamp, athletic director at Southwest Minnesota Christian, said. “When we schedule stuff at the beginning of the year we athletic directors know that we have specific days in our schedules that work, and it's on us to communicate with each other. ‘These are the days that work in our schedule. What does it look like in yours?’”

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Not only does it take two to tango, there is also the additional task of finding available referees, which can be limiting to the logistical challenge of rescheduling. Referee crews are in high demand, and that demand has led to an increase in playing events on less traditional dates such as Saturday and Monday.

“We have seen shortages of officials, and have had guys retire,” VandeKamp said. “It used to be you would reschedule a date and be able to find officials available. Now we are having officials say, ‘Look, if you want a Thursday or Friday we probably aren’t available,’ and that becomes really difficult.”

The solution of moving games to Saturday is one that could be defined as delicate.

“It's good for our kids to get a break, too, get a Saturday and Sunday off, but now with officials we don’t have another option and we end up playing quite a few Saturday games,” said VandeKamp.

It takes a lot of work behind the game to get student-athletes to their games, and the flexibility the officials put in their daily schedule to make the events successful is something that can be said to be above and beyond the call of duty.

Take Southwest Christian, which hosted Pipestone Area Saturday in a boys/girls doubleheader, as the only other viable solution would have been to play on Feb. 23. The decision to play on Saturday rather than the February date came down to keeping flexibility open for conference games that could potentially be postponed later on this season.

“The officials have been very good to work with, there just needs to be more of them,” VandeKamp said.

As for athletic directors, no doubt many of them feel the same way that Worthington High School AD Josh Dale feels. On Monday, Dale remarked in passing that he’s OK with snowstorms falling on Wednesdays or Sundays, which are non-sports for high schools. The other days of the week, however, not so much.

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Anyone interested in becoming an official can find more information on the Minnesota State High School League website.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Dominic Burns is a reporter at the Globe who covers general news and sports.
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