You’ve probably read about the shortage of high school sports officials in states across the country. Vermont and New Hampshire appear to have found a unique solution: Get the coaches to officiate games when they’re not in action.
The story of New Hampshire and Vermont’s cultivation of referee-coaches was reported by the Valley News, which covers the two northern New England states and their intersecting border. Critically, the paper interviewed multiple coaches who claim that doubling up as referees has enhanced their coaching ability and understanding of the sport.
“It immediately makes you a better coach,” Woodsville (N.H.) girls basketball coach Russ Wilcox, who traditionally works boys basketball games in Vermont, told the Valley News. “You understand what the officials are looking at. Instead of focusing all my negative attention on the officials, I focus my positive energy on my team.”
The coaches interviewed in the Valley News story have largely attempted to work in sports and levels where there involvement as a referee wouldn’t present a direct conflict of interest. Still, that doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of a coach having to referee a game at his or her own level, even if, “coaches make a point to never officiate a game involving an opponent his team might face during the season, as to not create a conflict of interest.”
Of course, that doesn’t ensure a lack of conflict of interest. Consider the possibility that a coach might serve as referee for a game featuring a team that his/her squad could potentially face in the postseason. What happens then?
As of now, there doesn’t appear to be a direct protocol, perhaps because the scenario hasn’t unfolded yet. For the good and success of both states’ high school sports systems, lets hope that doesn’t unfold anytime soon.