Ephrata vs Elco-LL Girls Play-In

Elco head coach Ashli Shay, talks to her players during a timeout against Ephrata in a play in game for the LL League girls tournament at Garden Spot High School Thursday Feb. 7, 2019.

It is no secret: There is a shortage of referees around the state, in pretty much every PIAA-mandated sport. And nobody can say for sure what will happen to the current pool of officials when everyone emerges from the current COVID-19 hiatus and athletic events resume.

One Lancaster-Lebanon League school is grabbing the bull by the horns, and offering a class to help prepare the next wave of officials across the area.

Starting in the 2020-21 school year, Elco will offer PIAA Sports Officiating, and 27 students have already signed up for the elective class, which will be instructed by Raiders girls basketball coach Ashli Shay.

The course has gained school board approval, and Shay is currently putting together a syllabus. She said the class will be split, with half classroom instruction and half in-the-field work, covering rules and techniques for soccer, basketball, baseball and softball officiating.

“We all know that there is a shortage of officials across the board,” Shay said. “So we’re trying to get kids interested in officiating at an early age, and hopefully that can contribute to getting more officials out there moving forward. We’d like to get them interested in officiating, and maybe some kids will even make a career out of it.”

Only juniors and seniors can sign up for the class, and students are not required to take the PIAA certification test at the end of the course. Shay got the idea from her days at Penn Manor, where she began her teaching career after graduating from Penn State. She said Penn Manor offered a similar course, and she wanted to offer it to Elco’s students.

“I think having 27 kids already signed up for the class is pretty good,” Shay said. “Hopefully we can teach them all the things they’ll need to know to become officials, even if it’s at the little league level.”

Elco athletic director Doug Bohannon and staffers Tom Eberly and Wes Soto are basketball referees, so Shay has already received plenty of help from her colleagues setting up the syllabus.

Other than teaching officiating fundamentals and rules, she hopes to bring in current referees as guest speakers to help her students learn about all aspects of being an official.

“There are a lot of different opportunities and avenues out there to become an official, so why not start now?” Shay said. “This might give some kids the passion to want to continue to do it. Perhaps some other schools will jump on board with a class like this."