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NASO’s 13-Point Plan: Getting Back To Officiating Sensibly

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Much has been written and aired about organized sports reorganizing themselves such that games can again be played. When sports reignite, what will be expected of us? At the barest minimum and for your personal safety, strictly adhering to CDC guidelines, OHSA guidelines where applicable and others which have been adopted by the communities in which we intend to officiate. Err on the side of safety!

Take a common-sense approach to the restart of your officiating. It could well be that you will be inundated with requests for your services. This will be the result of the pent-up demand to once again hold organized contests. Those contests could well be played with no fans. But it is safe to say that those who own the games, who govern the games, are not contemplating holding their games with no sports officials. If games are to be played, we will be needed to referee and umpire those games.

The common-sense approach I mentioned above has these components:

1. NASO advocates in the strongest of terms that an organization/association intending to relaunch its games pay special attention to the needs of the officials it will so desperately need. It should adopt and publicize provisions designed to enhance the safety and wellbeing of the officials.

2. Those staging the games should make sure the playing area has been properly cleaned and organized in a way that the officials are not also turned into virus maintenance workers. The officials will already be saddled with the extra burden of enforcing new playing rules and variations in game management to ensure safety of participants.

3. Officials must be provided an equally safe working environment as is provided for the players, coaches, fans and site management personnel.

4. The rules of the upcoming games may be adjusted by the rules-makers. NASO urges that any adoptions made in regard to the Covid-19 landscape be done in a way that gives strong consideration to the officiating role in the application and enforcement of those adoptions.

5. If you are an amateur official you are an independent contractor and thus, do not have to take any assignment which will make you uncomfortable from the standpoint of your personal health. If you choose to not take an assignment, turn it down respectfully. Don’t preach. Just state your beliefs and move on. This choice is yours. Yes, there could be some negative fallout from an assigner. But since the choice is yours, just accept that potential downside. Your health comes first.

6. If you serve as an assigner, please show forbearance toward any official who decides to not accept one of your assignments because of health concerns. Your thoughtfulness will make things better.

7. If you are feeling sick or are experiencing even a low-grade fever, don’t go out and officiate. Stay home and find out what the problem is. Do not do something that could cause harm or impose a health risk to someone else.

8. Pay special attention to your personal hygiene. Wash your hands. Make sure hand sanitizer is available for your use. Minimize touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

9. Get a mask and use the mask. When in doubt about wearing a mask, wear one. If the assignment you are fulfilling has a requirement for mask usage, embrace that and wear the mask. Explore ahead of time ways your decisions can be heard while working with a mask: electronic whistles, air-whistles, horns, etc.

10. There will be times when wearing a mask simply is not reasonable in your mind. In those cases, you have a decision to make: Work with no mask and accept the inherent risk or choose to not work. Know before you go what will be expected of you in this regard.

11. Be vigilant about social distancing (6 feet), which will take concentration during the time you are at a game site: before, during and after. Do your very best to keep your distance protected. This protocol will be challenging of course. There are going to be times when proper social distancing gets violated. Minimize those incursions. Learn to physically keep yourself at as safe a distance as you reasonably can. Stay away from handshakes, until those are greenlighted by the health professionals. Plan ahead.

12. When instant Covid-19 testing becomes easily or widely available, stop what you are doing and go get tested and retested as your situation warrants.

13. When a Covid-19 vaccination becomes easily or widely available, stop what you are doing and get vaccinated.

Do these things and you can feel much more confident in taking the floor, field, pitch and diamond…and aren’t we itching to do just that! We need the games. Our culture needs the games. The games need us. Let’s help make that happen but only with a commitment to the safety of all concerned: the officials, the players, the coaches and the fans, if they happen to be in attendance.

Barry Mano
President, NASO

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