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Referee Shortage Continues In Palm Beach County Amidst Hurricane Watch

Boca Raton’s match vs. Wellington last Friday was officiated by coaches at the freshman and junior varsity levels.

Palm Beach County Games Continue To Be Cancelled Amidst Referee Shortage and Hurricane Dorian

August 14th the news broke that a referee shortage had canceled several preseason matches in Palm Beach County, Florida. Exactly three weeks later things have only gotten worse. Not only did Hurricane Dorian threaten to cancel games until the hurricane watch officially ended, but it was the continued strike of the referees that caused a majority of the cancellations.

The members of the East Coast Officials Volleyball Association that refused to work have now been desanctioned from referring matches, due to their decline of a new offer of ten dollars more per match in travel fees, a violation of Florida High School Athletic Association policy. . They are asking for thirteen dollars and will not budge from their request. This issue not only affects public schools who rely on the ECVOA to officiate their matches within the county’s budgeted pay agreement, but it also impacts private schools who have public school matches on their schedules. Unless they are willing to host those matches, many will likely be canceled or postpones.

The work stoppage has created so many issues with scheduling that schools and athletic departments have been desperately reaching out to find qualified officials in other counties that are willing to work the matches, so far around 90 qualified officials have stepped up to help solve the issues, but it is not enough. Those games that were not filled by certified referees have been officiated by coaches from the participating schools. 

Boca Raton’s match vs. Wellington last Friday was officiated by coaches at the freshman and junior varsity levels. Coaches Kathy Bourque and Alyssa Rush from both teams, respectively.

Coach Bourque told the Palm Beach Post, “I coached the freshman team, won that match, then had to ref the JV game,” Bourque said. “I didn’t spend enough time with my team, because I was reffing that game, so that kind of hurt.”

Bourque is completely right. This stoppage is hurting the players and the programs. The cancellations and rescheduling are allowing other teams within the state to develop their teams faster and get looks at potential state tournament contenders while the teams in Palm Beach County sit and wait for a proper solution. 

Palm Beach Gardens Coach Joy Van Dyke is not pleased with the situation. She also told the Palm Beach Post, “It was unsettling, for sure, knowing that all the other counties — the ones that are so tough for us to come up against — have no problem… It’s smooth sailing (for them), and here we are, and it’s like the deck is stacked against you, almost.”

A highly competitive program, the Gators have made the 9A FHSAA state finals for the last three years straight, but with all the cancellations, and coaches forced to officiate matches their season could be in jeopardy. 

A number of other associations of officials including baseball, soccer, wrestling, women’s lacrosse, football, and flag football have all agreed to the ten dollar increase in pay; only volleyball has yet to try and negotiate their demands. 

With Hurricane Dorian canceling matches up and down the east coast of Florida at both the high school and college level, it should put things in perspective. One of these events is life-threatening and dangerous; the other is an argument over three dollars. 

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