It’s Official: We Need More Referees (So Please Help)

Besides players, a ball, and two hoops, there’s only one other thing you need to have an interscholastic basketball game.

Officials. And right now, we don’t have enough in Whatcom County.

For a variety of reasons, the number of men and women willing to officiate has been going down the past few years while the number of high school and middle school games has been going up.

“Before COVID, we had 105 to 110 officials,” said Ron Van Soest, board president for the Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan officials association. “Now we’re down to 50 or 55. That’s not enough to cover all our middle school games.”

So, the help wanted sign is out.

If you’d like to help young athletes, be involved in school sports, get some exercise and get paid for it, contact the local assignor Jerrod Fleury at or (253) 223-1538.

Unfortunately, the lack of officials already has forced some varsity games to be rescheduled to different nights. At the lower levels, officiating crews might be limited to two referees a game instead of the usual three. More shuffling may be in store.

And don’t blame the men and women in pinstripes. Many are working varsity and JV doubleheaders, sometimes four or five nights a week. There just aren’t enough officials to go around.

The good news is that almost anyone can help.

If you’re interested but have no experience, training is available. Newcomers as young as high school students can start with middle school games. And rookies will be paired with veterans to start out.

The association also works with officials as far as their personal schedules and availability.

“We’ll take whatever we can get,” said Van Soest. “We don’t force anyone to do something they don’t want to do.”

In addition to being paid per game, there are stipends for travel and, when needed, ferry fees. Officials are required to pay association dues, but those include liability insurance.

For more information, contact Van Soest at or (360) 815-6326.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Speaking for Whatcom Hoops and all our basketball fans, we want to thank our local officials for all that they do at a job with little recognition and often a lot of pressure. Let’s all of us (participants as well as fans) continue to show our officials the respect they deserve … because we couldn’t do it without them.

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.

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