Supporting Referees with Financial Relief

As the coronavirus is at the forefront of our minds, we as a country have considered the jobs of restaurant workers, supermarket employees, doctors, and other frontline workers. Closer to home, we’re worried about our own job security and the livelihood of our club coaches and directors. Certainly, we’ve thought endlessly about the return of club volleyball and our high school and collegiate seasons, too.

But there’s one group that most of us have probably lost sight of – referees. I think we can all agree that a good referee goes unnoticed. But in times like these, as our nation’s sporting events have been shut down by COVID-19 indefinitely, we need to bring them back into focus. How are the rulers of our favorite game getting by?

One athlete, Julia Blyashov of WAVE 15 Brent in San Diego, has considered the refs losing out on financial opportunities and decided to do something about it. She created a GoFundMe campaign in order to assist them financially during this trying time and give relief to referees.

Blyashov is one of the top OHs in the 2023 class, esteemed as a high-level recruit on a national level. Now, she’s calling on the volleyball community to take action to help referees, the people who make our lives frustrating at times, but ultimately are the reason we can focus on the best parts of the game of volleyball.

“I have been taking the time to reflect on what this has all meant for me and my teammates, as well as athletes across the entire country,” said Blyashov. “I realized how grateful I am to be a part of such a great community of people in the volleyball world. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over for the chance to compete against some of the best out there. It dawned on me that there is one very important piece to this puzzle that isn’t getting the support and recognition that they deserve – the referees.”

Referees are paid hourly, but not now; not without tournaments or matches to work. With the support of Wave’s Executive Director Brennon Dean and coach and Social Media Director Rachel Morris, Blyashov came up with her plan.

“My heart broke for them because they have the same passion for the sport that we all do who play, coach, and watch throughout the year,” she said. “None of us would be able to compete in these amazing tournaments throughout the year during club and high school season if it wasn’t for the refs that are always there supporting our efforts. We may not always agree with their calls or be happy with our outcomes of a match, but regardless, none of it would be possible without them. That’s when I decided I wanted to try and help.”

Blyashov, along with Dean and Morris, searched for organizations they could donate money to, but it proved more difficult than they thought. Currently, through the GoFundMe page, they are raising money in hopes to distribute it nationwide. Realistically, the amount of money that would take to support all referees would be substantial. So Blyashov has her immediate sights set on the problem close to home – to support the San Diego Federation of Volleyball Officials Association. Once the young philanthropist has raised a significant amount of money, she’ll reach out to referee organizations to donate the money.

Blyashov added, “We are looking for more ways to support more referees throughout the entire country. This is just a stepping stone. My original goal was to keep the campaign in SCVA, but I truly believe we can make a difference to the whole country.”

How can you help support the cause locally and nationally? For starters, you can donate whatever you can to the GoFundMe account already set up by Blyashov. Then, tell someone about it – a teammate, coach, your club, school, and region.

“It is my goal to make sure that the referees know how much they are valued and cared for, even if we don’t always agree,” added Blyashov. “We are grateful to them in more ways than we can count because we know we would not be able to do any of this without them. They have a really tough job and the continue to do it day in and day out with very little thanks. I think we should take it upon ourselves during this time to let them know how much we really do care about them.”

You can donate to the cause (“Help Volleyball Referees During COVID-19”) and share it with others by visiting Blyashov’s GoFundMe page, here.

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