High School Referee Talks Officiating in Pandemic: ‘I Didn't Think the Season Was Going to Happen'

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Ricky Upshaw loves the game of football. So much that when his time as a player ended, he decided to become an official.

“I love being down there on the field with the kids on Friday night. It’s just like still being a part of the game,” said Upshaw.

Then North Texas started seeing community spread of COVID-19 and, at the time, Upshaw says he didn’t see how the game would go on.

“I didn’t think the season was going to happen,” he said. “Because with the proximity and the amount of contact that we have with officials and the kids, there’s no distancing in football.”

Because of that, he said some colleagues had to make tough decisions.

“Some of the older guys do have underlying health issues,” said Upshaw. “And if their partners at home have underlying health issues, they want to not take anything home to that individual.”

After getting reassurance from the Dallas chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, Upshaw decided he was all in. Though now, of course there would be changes.

“We have to wear face masks during the pregame, when we talk to the coaches, when we inspect the players, we have to have a mask on,” he said.

He says TASO gives weekly updates and released guidelines which include face masks and suggestions for showing up already dressed in uniform.

“We used to show up in slacks and a shirt. Now we have to wear our game pants and undershirt. We put the game shirt on when we get to the stadium,” said Upshaw. “We’d normally show and redress before we leave the field. Now we don’t. We change shirts and leave on our pants and get in our vehicles and leave and shower when we get home.”

He knows there’s still a risk, but says he’s taking it one week and one game at a time.

Dallas ISD resumed athletic activities on Tuesday as part of what’s being called a “phased-in” return, with varsity teams that compete in the fall starting first.

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