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Shortage of Southwest Washington football officials remains very real

Inquiries are increasing but just under 50 will return from last fall

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:
2 Photos
Chris Prothero of the Evergreen Football Officials Association stands over the ball during a timeout at the Union-O'Dea game on Sept. 3, 2021, at McKenzie Stadium.
Chris Prothero of the Evergreen Football Officials Association stands over the ball during a timeout at the Union-O'Dea game on Sept. 3, 2021, at McKenzie Stadium. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Make no mistake, the membership of the folks in black-and-white remains in the red, but greener pastures could lie in the future.

The shortage of high school football officials remains very real, the president of the Evergreen Football Officials Association said.

“I think we’re still in the shrinking mode, which has me concerned,” EFOA president Bruce Hermansen said. “It’s still worrisome until we can turn that around and start growing the organization.”

However, the association has received more inquiries this offseason from people interested in becoming football officials than he can ever remember.

“In the past, our best year for new contacts was about a dozen people,” Hermansen said. “We have 19 on the list right now that have touched base with us. … If we can get 10 of those people to show up in the fall, I will be very, very happy.”

Hermansen said he expects just under 50 officials to return this fall from last season, which saw teams juggling schedules to meet the needs of the officials.

“Some of the schools know where we are and they are proactively looking for ways to help us by scheduling games on Thursdays or Saturdays without us asking,” Hermansen said. “Hopefully we won’t have to ask any for any games to be moved. But we had some crazy situations last year. One week, we had to ask Washougal to move their game from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m. so we could have the same crew work that game, and then go over to Camas and work that game at 7 p.m. I would like to avoid that kind of stuff.”

Hermansen said the first step for anyone interested in becoming an official is to contact the EFOA through their website or reach out to Hermansen directly before the association’s next meeting on Aug. 2.

“I want to talk in real time with as many of these people as possible, so they can understand what the steps are in becoming an official,” he said. “A lot of people who contact us have no idea what’s involved here. They think ‘OK, I’ll sign up and then in a couple of weeks, I’ll be working the Union-Camas game.’ That’s not going to happen.”

For years, officials in Washington have been paid well below the national average. But this year, the state is providing a bump in pay which will pay officials closer to the national average of $79 for a high school varsity game. Pay for youth, middle school and sub-varsity games can be lower than that, and that’s typically where first-year officials start.

And Hermansen said new officials can spend upwards of $300 on the uniform and gear.

“We had one fella just assume that we supplied officials with all of that,” Hermansen said. “We don’t. But we are working on ways of subsidizing these people with their uniforms until they get into the flow of things and get some income from working games.”

Hermansen also likes to warn prospective officials of other potentials drawbacks.

“I don’t sugar-coat the negative side,” he said. “Beside the cost of entry, there is a learning curve that you have to go through, and a significant time commitment from attending meetings to studying your rulebook. And I definitely talk about the hurdles of the abuse that young officials take sometimes. That’s one of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome to keep a first-year guy coming back.”

But if new officials stick it out for as long as Hermansen has, they will understand what he has learned through nearly 50 years of wearing the stripes.

“My selling point is just the things that keep me going — the closeness to the game that I really enjoy, and being involved with the kids at all levels, from the little ones all the way through high school,” he said. “I really enjoy the interaction with the kids, with the coaches. There is a camaraderie that is developed in the organization that you’re doing something for the community. You’re helping the schools to put the games on. You’re helping the kids to play.”

Becoming an official

Contact the Evergreen Football Association through its website efoaonline.org or contact Bruce Hermansen at 360-573-0051.

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