The Westport Chapter of Soccer Officials currently has a roster of 36 members, including long time referee Steve Stahl, in back. With between 14 to 18 games in a single day, the organization is seeking new members to help provide proper coverage at both varsity and modified games.
The Westport Chapter of Soccer Officials is coping with a double edged sword.
On the one side, numbers have been decreasing over the past few years for officials, from a high of around 50 to a current roster of 36.
On the other, several of those 36 officials are entering the final years of service for the organization.
“I have been doing this for 32 years now,” chapter director Jim Monty said. “Pete Jacques is our most tenured member and we have several that have been doing this for a lot of years. Pete and I are at the point where are grandkids are starting to come into the modified system, and we want to watch them play. A lot of the older generation of refs will be gone in the next two years.”
The organization of officials cover schools including Willsboro, Keene, Elizabethtown-Lewis, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Westport, Moriah, Crown Point, Ticonderoga, Schroon Lake, Mienrva-Newcomb, Indian Lake/Long Lake, Wells and Johnsburg.
If each team were playing against each other, a total of 28 referees would be required to cover 14 games - seven modified and seven varsity.
However, in the worse case scenario where a total of nine modified and nine varsity games could be played in the chapter, all 36 members would be needed.
“We have had situations where we have had to cover a modified game with just one referee,” Monty said. “We will never do that for a varsity game, but it is becoming more common on the modified level.”
Monty said that the numbers were not the reason for a pair of games lacking officials Sept. 10, when the Lake Placid - Seton and Westport - Elizabethtown-Lewis games had to be postponed because no officials showed up.
“That was an oversight on my part, and I have to take the blame on that one,” Monty said. “We have a new scheduling system and those games were left blank. The schedule is posted 10 days in advance, but no one noticed it.”
Monty said that the chapter is always actively recruiting for new members to join their ranks, even looking at members of local teams that are seniors.
“We have sent notices out to schools and put it out there with the coaches, trying to plant the seed with some of these players,” Monty said. “We are looking at kids that are staying local for college and I will work around their schedule, but we are just not getting a response. I can‘t help but think that, as a college student or young adult back in the area, you could not use $1,500 over six weeks.”
Monty said that the attitude players see towards the officials from the sidelines may be to blamed for their lack of wanting to stay with the gamer locally through officiating.
“You have to have thick skin at times, especially when you are doing the big games,” Monty said. “Kids do not want to go out there and face what they have seen coming from the parents and fans in the stands. “
Monty also said that he was surprised by where the officials come from.
“You see a lot of youth soccer and interest in the sport in the Lake Placid region, but only one of our officials is from there,” he said. “The base of our officials come from Westport and Willsboro. You would think that there would be more from some of these others towns because you get mileage to go along with the pay for each game.”
Monty said that while he is focused on bringing new soccer officials into the fold, he realized that this is not a unique situation.
“All of the other sports are experiencing the same thing,” he said. “I know that the population has decreased and a lot of kids move on after high school, but there are people out there who love the game, and that is what you need to have. I love the game and I always appreciate seeing great plays from these kids, no matter who they play for.”
Those interested in learning more about becoming a referee in the Westport Chapter of Soccer Officials or elsewhere in the North Country, call Monty at 962-4737.