When all goes well, members of the Capital City Board of Volleyball Officials simply blend into a high school match.
That’s the way CCBVO assignment secretary Nedda Taylor and her crew of 38 officials like it.
“We see ourselves as a group that serves the schools, players and coaches,” Taylor said.
However, it’s the officials who come before anything else, because they preside over high school and middle school contests locally.
A look at the numbers may surprise the average observer. An average of 55 high school matches are played each Monday through Thursday.
Most high school contests include at least one sub-varsity match. There are also 10 public school middle school matches: five each on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Taylor said most officials work an average of three days a week. Because there are an average of two tournaments each weekend in the metro Baton Rouge area, the work load often extends past Thursdays.
The most challenging days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some officials start at a middle school match at 2:30 p.m. and then go to junior varsity and varsity high school contests.
“Those days are tough because you’re dealing with different levels of play and you have to adjust as an official,” Taylor said. “You’ll start with a junior high match where the players are still learning the skills.
“Then you might finish the night with two varsity teams that are highly skilled. The rules are the same, but the players and skills are not, and that changes how you have to look at things as an official.”
Taylor is in her 14th year as assignment secretary and 32nd year overall as a local high school official. The majority of CCBVO members have worked at least 10 years. Diane Pirello, Greg Johnson, Henry Grimes and Sheila Bennett are other longtime officials.
Taylor also points to a group of younger officials, including five who completed their high school eligibility last fall and are attending local colleges.
Under LHSAA and CCBVO rules, a new official out of high school can’t call a contest involving their alma mater for five years.
Officials take part in summer training that includes summer leagues and in-the-gym drills with local teams or other officials standing in as players.
There can be a turnover among officials. Michele Ashmore LeBouef, a former St. Joseph’s Academy player, moved from officiating to coaching at Central High this year, for example. Taylor said another official is sidelined with a back injury.
Former Denham Springs player Holly Hauck, a 23-year-old Southeastern student, is among the up-and-coming officials and has been selected to work the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Volleyball Tournament next month.
Hauck remembers being “recruited” by Taylor, who officiated her “Senior Night” match at Denham Springs.
“Afterward, Nedda came up to me and asked what I was planning to do the next year,” Hauck said. “I told her I was going to college, and she asked me to think about becoming to an official. Once I got started, I absolutely loved it.
“It’s a way for me to stay involved with the sport. Because I played, for me, the transition was easy.”
The growing pains do have a downside. Like their counterparts in other sports, volleyball officials are not immune to criticism.
“I know they (officials) take a beating,” The Dunham School coach Donna Pixley said. “Experience is the key to anything you do, whether its playing or officiating. In the last couple of years, we’ve lost some officials to coaching and other jobs.
“It can get frustrating when there’s a call that’s missed, especially when we’re trying to teach our players what to do. But it is part of life. There is a human factor in playing, coaching and officiating. “
The CCBVO chose not to be involved in the movement to garner a pay raise last spring, even though Louisiana’s volleyball officials did rank among the lowest paid nationally. They did get a raise from $55 to $75 for a two-person crew doing a best of five-games match.
“I think the majority of our officials work because they enjoy working with the players and coaches,” Taylor said. “They truly love the sport.”
A number of “Pink Night” games that allow schools to promote breast cancer awareness and raise money for research are set for the next two weeks. Varsity matches start about 6 p.m.
On Wednesday, Episcopal hosts Dunham for its Pink game. The two schools had another benefit contest at Dunham previously.
University at Runnels and Ascension Catholic at St. John are Monday’s pink matches. On Monday, Oct. 24, Parkview Baptist hosts Glen Oaks for its pink benefit.