‘Shortage’ is the word of the season for OHS sports

Athletic director tells board that district is dealing with a dearth of players, bus drivers and officials
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee High School’s fall athletic season has been one of shortages — of players, bus drivers, officials and volunteers, Athletic Director Andy McKee told the Northern Ozaukee School Board Monday.

“Shortage is the key word,” he said during a report on fall sports.

McKee, who was forced to bench boys’ soccer this year because of a dearth of players, now can only hope buses are available to transport the school’s other teams and has had to reschedule football games around the availability of a dwindling number of referees.

“We spent the summer shaking the trees, but in the end we just didn’t have enough players to field a varsity (soccer) team,” he said. “It was not something we took lightly.”

Soccer teams field 11 players. Ozaukee High had eight boys sign up for the team before the last-minute decision was made in the middle of August to forego a team this year, something that McKee believes is a first for the school.

“We just didn’t think it was in the best interest of the boys to play short-handed, especially since we’re in a very competitive conference for soccer,” he said.

McKee talked last year with his counterparts at Random Lake and Cedar Grove-Belgium high schools about a cooperative boys’ soccer team. Those discussions broke down, but he has resumed them with Random Lake High School’s new athletic director, Brandon Mueller.

“I think Random Lake makes the most sense for us geographically,” McKee said during an interview.

High schools have until Feb. 1 to notify the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association of co-op teams for the following school year.

While the number of boys interested in playing soccer plummeted, the football program’s numbers are up slightly, McKee said.

“I still wish they were higher, but at least we’re trending in the right direction,” he said.

But a challenge will be assembling a softball team in spring. Last year, the school fielded only a junior varsity team, and this year, if there’s a team at all, it will again be a JV squad, McKee said.

“Softball is another one that’s on the ropes,” he said “We have a couple of girls who are really passionate about it, but the reality is you can’t always make these things work.

“Softball is one of those sports where  you can’t just roll out of bed one day and face senior pitchers who have been playing for years. That’s not in the best interest of our students.”

McKee said he relies on students to get their classmates involved in sports and keep them involved.

“If they love their sport, they have to get their friends to come out because I can’t make them play,” he said.

In addition to a shortage of athletes in some sports, McKee is dealing with a dearth of bus drivers and game officials.

“Are officials going to show up and are bus drivers going to show up is half the battle right now,” he said.

Scheduling bus transportation is a challenge that McKee suspects will only get worse in spring when most competitions are held on weekday afternoons. That means that Ozaukee High teams traveling to away games will have to leave school around 3 p.m., which is when the district’s transportation provider, GO Riteway, is also busy driving students home from school.

“We may have to get creative with scheduling to deal with the driver shortage and look at rescheduling some games,” he said.

Creative scheduling has also been needed to deal with a statewide shortage of game officials, which has meant a departure from the traditional Friday night football games on some weeks. The Warriors have played a Thursday and Saturday game already this year.

“It’s really going to be an interesting couple of years if the WIAA doesn’t find a way to recruit more officials,” McKee said.

WIAA surveys suggest that the state is losing officials because of verbal abuse by adults during games, a finding that’s not lost on the Northern Ozaukee School District.

“Be nice to your officials,” McKee told the School Board.

A recent email from the head official for Ozaukee High’s season opener against Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg, which resulted in a tough loss for the Warriors, suggests that message is getting through and is appreciated.

“Your players showed tremendous sportsmanship and character despite the outcome of the game,” Mike Stone wrote in an email to Northern Ozaukee School Supt. Dave Karrels. “This is always a reflection of the coaching staff, and I wanted you to know what our crew observed.

“On an aside, I have to tell you that the hospitality displayed by the entire staff was among the best we’ve ever had. From the pre-game communications to the fantastic locker room facilities to the offering of a post-game meal, we cannot thank you enough.

“You have a class operation at Ozaukee High School.”

McKee said the atmosphere of respect for officials the district is working to instill in its players, coaches and fans is paying off, as are the meals the booster club is providing them.

“I have officials calling me asking if they can work one of our non-conference games, and when officials are reaching out to me saying they’d love to work in Ozaukee, that’s music to my ears,” he said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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