Volleyball scrimmages that began this week kicked off the 2020-21 season for LHSAA athletes.
It was also was the first action for officials.
The work of officials during the coronavirus pandemic is being charted by LHSAA assistant director Lee Sanders and the officials’ association, the LHSOA, which has its own COVID-19 task force. Sanders oversees officials for the LHSAA.
“We knew this year would be a challenge and that is why we formed a task force,” Sanders said. “Our officials have concerns during this time and our goal is to keep them as safe as possible.”
Sanders and LHSOA president Paul LaRosa of New Orleans both expected Louisiana's number of officials to drop because of COVID-19 job losses and the fact that a number of Louisiana officials are over the age of 50. The potential loss of officials in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura also factors in.
Sanders said 274 volleyball officials are registered, which is down from 350 a year ago. Registration for football officials is ongoing in September. There are 651 currently registered. A year ago, there were 1,200 football officials statewide.
LaRosa and COVID-19 committee chairman Marlon Harrison of Baton Rouge began polling officials associations in all sports across the state over the summer to find out their concerns. LaRosa took those concerns to the LHSAA’s sports medicine advisory to obtain protocols.
“I’ve been in touch with volleyball officials this week and so far it has gone very well for them,” LaRosa said. “Their concerns were about coaches and players on the benches wearing masks, along with benches and scorer's table being socially distanced. There are no issues.
“Football will be the big test. You are outdoors, but there are a lot more people involved. A big question for us are facilities used to change clothes.
"Everything is supposed to be sanitized at school sites, but that is a concern. Being dressed when you arrive may not be a bad thing. Of course, when we get to basketball there will be new concerns.”
LaRosa said football protocols could change as scrimmages and games take place.
LaRosa said he hoped the loss of jobs might attract more people to officiating. So far, that has not happened.
After the storm
The number of LHSAA schools reporting damage from Hurricane Laura is unofficially up to 179 from 27 parishes.
LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said the areas reporting the most damage include Calcasieu, Beauregard and Vernon parishes.
Bonine said no schools have reported plans to cancel seasons yet, but said that could happen based on the damage some schools received.
The LHSAA set up a process for students to gain eligibility at new schools if they are displaced to another city.
Students will be eligible at schools located in the attendance zone of the location where they are staying. The process is similar to the one the LHSAA used after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.