It's not just players: Local referees like Newbury's Volpone dealing with coronavirus crisis too

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoLocal lacrosse official Robin Volpone has been sidelined as there are no high school sports so far this season.

Like many these days, Robin Volpone has taken to organizing to fill some of her time stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other day, the Newbury Elementary School physical education teacher and assignor of college and high school lacrosse officials across New England found her organizing taking a motivational turn.

“I had so much time on my hands that I went through my phone and started organizing all the pictures into little albums,” said Volpone, an official assignor for the NCAA, Eastern Massachusetts Women’s Lacrosse Umpires Association (EMWLUA) and Independent School League. “I ended up coming up with an album that was just all lacrosse officials. Any pictures of a game where you could see an official in the background or of them closeup, or whatnot. I put all those into an album. And of course, your phone then makes a video of it automatically if you hit a button.”

Realizing what she had, she forwarded it to the many, many officials in her contacts.

“I actually just sent that out to all my officials, just give me a little boost,” she said. “I know how much we all miss being out there.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed the college lacrosse season, which was already a blow for Volpone’s officials. The college seasons got underway in February, and by the second week in March, were hitting their stride with Division 1, 2 and 3 all finally in full action. Then seemingly within hours, all college action came to a full stop.

“(Cancelations) were trickling in day by day with some conferences,” said Volpone. “Some conferences were holding out and waiting, and some were canceling all together. But then (March 12) all the conferences and the NCAA had canceled, and college lacrosse was done for the season.”

While the college seasons were coming to a halt, Volpone started to think about ways to get college players involved in officiating. There was still hope for a high school season, and there is always a need for new officials.

“We were hoping to take advantage of some of those college athletes who are now not on the field to do some officiating classes and some observations of some high school games,” said Volpone. “This was before all this was in the works before all the high school schedules were altered as well.”

Then the MIAA put a hold on their season, and all of Volpone’s officials found themselves on the sidelines indefinitely. Volpone’s work now turns to sending her team US Lacrosse online courses, encouraging them to watch games on video, and keeping their spirits high.

“I’ve been just keeping in touch with my officials and seeing how they’re doing,” said Volpone. “You know, a lot of us put our heart and soul into getting ready for the season. It’s not just a job for us. We absolutely love being out there.”

With Wednesday’s announcement that Massachusetts schools will remain closed until May 4, many fear that the high school season might also be lost. Volpone is taking a lot of hope out of the MIAA’s recent statements about modifying the season.

“I love how the MIAA is holding on to the fact that they’re going to try to make this happen,” said Volpone. “Whether it ends up being a four-week season, a three-week season, a two-week season. I just love how they just haven’t said, ‘You know what, we’re going to cancel it all.’ So that’s one positive to hold on to.”

Volpone isn’t alone in longing to be out on a lacrosse field, watching one of the most competitive sports in the Cape Ann. She can just look out her window at her daughter, Paige, a senior midfielder for the girls team at Triton Regional, who is constantly working on her skills in their yard in the event the spring high school season ever gets off the ground.

“It’s tough,” said Volpone of her daughter, who is committed to play for Division 2 University of Virginia – College at Wise. “This is her senior year, and she’s chomping at the bit to get out there. She’s also a captain, so she’s really trying to balance the leadership and not letting her teammates see how upset she is for not being out there.”

Both Volpones hold out hope that come May, their calendars will be filled with lacrosse again. The officials Volpone works with feel the same.

“As hard as being an official is, the corps of officials that we have love being out there,” said Volpone. “It’s not really that we’re missing it because we’re not getting paid. We’re missing it because it’s part of our lifestyle. We want to be out there just as much as players on the coaches do.”

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