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As the Cherry Creek Schools community prepares for the highly anticipated opening weekend of high school football in the state of Colorado, a situation looms that some would call a crisis. In recent seasons, the number of officials on the field and court has been reduced in all high school sports.

Dealing with the staffing shortage has become increasingly difficult for school districts across the state, including Cherry Creek.

“We are very excited about the start of the school year and athletics and activities,” said District Director of Athletics and Activities Larry Bull. “But I will say that game and match schedules are always subject to change due to normal situations, like weather or facility availability, and now the district has to make changes due to a lack of officials and equipment.”

Bull and other district officials have spent the past few weeks adjusting the 2022 schedule for soccer and other sports to make referee teams more readily available.

“This affects all sports,” Bull said. “For example, in field hockey, there is a very limited number of referees. In softball, we could have problems with umpires, and as we’ve said, there are going to be challenges with football this season. It has become a national problem.”

The Colorado High School Activities Association has been very aware of the situation for some time.

“It’s certainly not just Colorado. It’s nationwide,” CHSAA Assistant Commissioner of Officials Michael Book said. “I attended a national conference in San Antonio in June, and officials from every state spoke about similar issues.”

The book pointed to several causes. In Colorado, schools are being added due to population growth, older veteran officials in all sports are retiring, and the path to adding new officials as it meets the needs of the state has not been established.

“With new schools opening, with all the sports, and levels of sports, you see the problem,” Book said. “When you lose officials and add schools and sports, the gap gets bigger and bigger.”

He explained that due to shortages, officials have to work more nights a week, leading to a higher rate of burnout. Also, new people are not entering the professional ranks fast enough to keep up with the demand.

Book said CHSAA asked schools and districts to make schedule adjustments to accommodate the soccer shortage.

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