The NFL lockout is over and skeptics are pondering the long-range impact. Some have turned their attention to the NBA’s labor woes.
Lost in the shuffle is another labor dispute that was resolved in June. This one hits much closer to home.
It’s as close as Olympia Stadium, the gymnasium at Scotlandville High, the Dutchtown High baseball field or any facility in which Louisiana High School Athletic Association-sanctioned officials work.
A fiery defiance followed the original decision by LHSAA member principals to deny pay raises for officials in a wide range of sports. A one-day work stoppage by basketball officials in various parts of the state, including Baton Rouge, followed.
Ultimately, the LHSAA approved pay raises for football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, soccer, baseball and softball officials at a special-called June meeting.
The pay raises are tied to incentive-based improvements. Now, officials will be in the spotlight and perhaps even under a microscope as the 2011-12 seasons begin.
“We’re pleased to get a pay raise and we’re working to respond to what the principals want,” Baton Rouge Area Basketball Officials Association President Harry Jenkins said. “There is no negotiation on this and our membership understands that.
“We have to take steps to become better at what we do. There can be no egos in this. We know there has to be consistency.”
Later this month, basketball officials begin a series of weekly meetings. Separate rules and on-the-court workshops also are set every week. A system that will use retired officials to evaluate the current ones is also in place.
Jenkins says all these measures are designed to help mend relationships with local schools while also helping officials hone their skills.
Money was a huge rallying point for Louisiana’s basketball and volleyball officials, who were among the nation’s lowest paid. It’s a different ballgame for football, according to Marlon Harrison, president of the Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association.
“We’d call games for free if we had to,” Harrison said. “Money was not an issue for us like it was for basketball. Our goal is to serve the schools, the players and the coaches.
“Last weekend we had our statewide clinic in Lake Charles (at Westlake High). We’ve been working on ways to make what we do more uniform across the board for a couple of years now.”
Capital City Umpires Association assignment secretary Al Toups says plans for a similar system for baseball umpires are developing.
Yet as nice as all this sounds, major questions still remain.
Incentive-based programs are a solid idea. Like it or not, officiating involves subjective decisions and interpretations.
What will happen the first time coaches and officials find themselves in a confrontation?
Or when fans express their displeasure with a call?
I hope all sides show some patience. It takes time to work through labor pains.