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Fryer: Schools need more officials, less complaining

STAFF COLUMNIST

Orange County athletics has a shortage of game officials in several sports.

Parents and coaches can help by being kinder to the refs and umps.

Of course, the level of officiating in county high school sports is not at an MLB, NFL or NBA level.

Guess what? Neither is the skill level of the teams and athletes.

The kids aren’t as good as the pros and neither are the officials. They are at a comparable level of quality.

This spring I have covered baseball games in which the losing team has made multiple errors, its pitchers can’t throw strikes consistently and its batters don’t protect the plate on a 0-2 count. Yet that team’s coach is all over the umpires like those runs-hits-errors totals on the scoreboard were caused by the umps who missed a couple of calls.

Parents with the worst angle for viewing the strike zone are barking about ball-strike calls. They continue to carp about the umps after the game in the parking lot.

Basketball is a very difficult game to officiate; the charge-block call is as challenging as any call to make in sports. Coaches and parents yell “get ’em off” at the referees as the play gets physical when their team has the ball. It never fails that they will yell “let ’em play” as the play gets physical when their team is on defense.

Give those officials a break. They are getting paid, but that’s probably not their sole source of income. Baseball umpires get $75 each for a regular-season varsity game. A two-person varsity basketball crew gets $72 each. That money is a lure, sure, but for the most part officials are there because it is a fun challenge for them and it is a means of community service.

A quick aside here: The best officiating gig might be track and field. You don’t, for example, hear the high jumper’s parent yell from the stands, “Six-foot-6? That bar looks to be at 6-7 from up here!”

Officials are needed to keep high school sports going. Anyone interested can call Speed Castillo at 714-778-4421 for information on openings and the officials training programs. Candidates need thick skin, so if you’re married you have a head start.

Coaches and parents can help Castillo recruit those officials by calming down. Don’t scare them off. Remember that the game official is not the greatest in America, and neither is your team.

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

• Swimming and track and field league finals highlight the schedule today, weather permitting. The Trinity League track and field finals shot put and discus features a group of All-CIF football players including Matt Katnik of St. John Bosco, Malik McMorris of Mater Dei and Luke Wattenberg of JSerra. Nikki Merritt, freshman sister of pole-vault star Kaitlyn Merritt at Santa Margarita, is the No. 3 freshman in California in the 300 hurdles and is the No. 3 freshman in the state in the 100 hurdles.

• Of the more than 800,000 student-athletes participating in CIF sports statewide, only two percent are transfers according to the CIF State office.

• Laguna Beach athletic director Mike Churchill is retiring at the end of the school year. He has been the school’s athletic director for eight years. Churchill has coached football at many schools in Southern California since his first coaching job at Garden Grove in 1967. He coached Riverside Poly to CIF-Southern Section championships in 1983 and ’84.

• County athletic directors were honored at the California State Athletic Directors Conference last month. Alan Clinton of Servite and Jill Matyuch of Brea Olinda won awards recognizing their contributions. Also at the conference, Greg Coombs of Godinez and Mike Zimmerman of Newport Harbor were named CIF-Southern Section athletic directors of the year.

• The Orange County Athletic Directors Association honors each county league’s athletes of the year, male and female, and announces its overall county athletes of the year at its spring banquet May 26 at Anaheim Convention Center.

• The Brea Lions on Saturday have their Orange County all-star football game recognition luncheon at which players and coaches will be feted. The Lions also announce a county football player of the year, a selection that includes input from county media members.

• Laguna Hills was thinking ahead. The school, in partnership with the city of Laguna Hills and the water department, installed artificial turf for all of its athletic fields. The school had been using reclaimed water on the grass fields and still does for plant life that requires watering.

• Orange Unified announced last week it will restrict field watering at its schools to twice a week.

• The CIF-SS baseball championship games for Divisions 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino. The section and Angel Stadium could not come to an agreement that met the needs of both parties for those games to be held at the Big A, according to CIF-SS spokesman Thom Simmons.

• The Diablo Inferno, among the better boys basketball season-opening tournaments in Southern California, has openings for teams. Contact Rob Cullinan, coach for tournament-host Mission Viejo, at 949-837-7722.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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