AOA officials in waiting to see what happens with VHSL sports seasons

Clockwise from left, Johnny Poole, Chris Davis, Cecil Coleman, Brad Christian and John Campbell are hoping to be calling VHSL football games in the spring of next year.

If high school football is played in the spring in Virginia, Chris Davis and his crew plan to be on the field if at all possible.

“My plan as of right now is, yes, we’ll be there,” said Davis, a referee with the Appalachian Officials Association.

Davis is in his second decade as a prep football official. Like many others who do the job, Davis thinks of it as a labor of love.

“For me it’s something I enjoy doing. It’s not about the money. It’s about the camaraderie and the love of the game.”

Davis and his officiating of crew of John Campbell, Cecil Coleman, Brad Christian and Johnny Poole will not be officiating VHSL football this fall.

The league postponed football and other fall sports until the spring of next year.

VHSL sports will not be starting until late December when the winter season sports of basketball, wrestling, indoor track and field, swim and dive and indoor gymnastics are scheduled to be played in an abbreviated-season plan adopted by the VHSL Executive Committee on Monday.

The plan is an adjustment to the normal prep sports schedule in the commonwealth as a way of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The threat of the virus has many questioning whether any prep sports will be played in Virginia this year.

It also has officials with the AOA wondering whether to pay a non-refundable annual sanctioning fee.

“It’s in limbo until Dec. 10,” AOA Chairman Wayne Nickodam, who also officiates basketball and soccer, said of the state-mandated test and sanctioning fee for officials.

Nickodam said he recently received notification from the VHSL regarding the extension to December.

The chairman, a retired coal miner after 36 years in the business, is in second-stage black lung and has his own health concerns about officiating.

“I don’t know if I’ll do any games,” Nickodam said.

His feelings are shared by a few AOA officials, although he said he has not heard any concerns personally from the association’s members.

“I love being a referee. It’s a passion of mine,” Nickodam said. “This is just a terrible thing.”

AOA Volleyball Commissioner Frank Hess said he’s only had one volleyball official indicate some concerns about working games next spring. But Hess said he would not be surprised if more officials hesitate and decide not to officiate games.

“I fully expect it,” Hess said. “We still have several more months, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Hess also said some officials wonder if any high school sports will be played in Virginia this year.

That’s also a concern for basketball officials, with the first games of the VHSL season scheduled to begin on Dec. 28.

Poole, the AOA commissioner of basketball officials, said if the games are played, the referees will be there.

“We’re fine. We’ve got good numbers right now. Of course, we’re always looking for new people and young people to get into officiating in all sports,” Poole said. “We’re excited about it. We’ll just have to wait and see how things go.”

Like all other individuals involved in prep sports, officials with the AOA hated to see the games stop in the spring and most are excited to get back to work on the fields and courts.

For many, getting back to action means some sense of returning to normal.

“These guys have developed into some of my best friends in life,” Davis said of the individuals on his football officiating crew. “We talk about every day to check with each other and see how things are going. In the spring if they don’t play football, we may take some Friday afternoons and go play golf just to have some sense of normal.”