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‘More than a job’: Long-time C.O. HS sports officials preach benefits of role ahead of Redmond job fair

(Update: adding video, comments from officials)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Central Oregon Athletic Directors are looking for officials in football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball.

“In order to play the game, you have to have officials,” said Mike Duree, secretary treasurer with the Central Oregon Football Officials Association.

Thursday night's job fair at Redmond High School at 6 p.m. in the commons will help share information about the job.

Mehdi Salari, the commissioner of the Central Oregon Soccer Officials Association, hopes it can help find new officials.

“Motivate some people to come ref some soccer games after work, basically,” Salari said. 

Central Oregon referee numbers have been trending down for the past decade, and hit a low during the pandemic.

In 2010, there were 826 football officials, 494 for soccer, and 451 volleyball. By 2020, there were just 438 for football, 350 for soccer and 264 for volleyball.

Numbers actually are improving this year, with 689, 428 and 384 respectively, but still sit too low.

“Again, like with all other sports, we have been down over the last several years,” Duree added.

The lack of officials has changed game dates, times and locations, which can put a strain on the schools, the players and their families.

“I think it has a big impact, as far as not being able to play all the games at the same time, basically,” Salari said. 

Salari has officiated for 30 years, and said there are several benefits. 

“It's actually more activity/sport than a job really,” Salari said. “You’re running, you’re participating in the sport with the kids. Its community service, and you get paid a little bit.”

About 16 years ago, Duree was challenged by a friend to give back to the community.

He's been a football official ever since.

“Officiating is actually a fun opportunity to be involved in the community, to be involved with a sport that they love to officiate, and the sport that they love that they participated in,” Duree said. 

Salari is officiating a second generation of athletes, and said the experience is extremely rewarding.

“For them to remember me and, to come out: ‘Oh, you reffed my games, now you’re reffing my kids game’ -- it's just so much fun,” Salari said. “To feel like you put something into the sport, and into the community.”

Most sports are still about 10 to 20 officials short of their ideal number.

Depending on the level, pay ranges from $60 to $80 or more per game.

Article Topic Follows: Sports

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.


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