BAUMHOLDER, Germany — There are so few of them these days, Anthony Ramsey can recite their names off the top of his head.
Jimmy Crook for softball. Stephanie Dempsey and Rey Voisine for volleyball.
These are the people he can always count on to officiate sports, said Ramsey, Community Sports programmer for the 222nd Base Support Battalion in Baumholder. “They’re the unsung heroes who come out and give their all to the community, and no one ever gives them an ‘atta boy.’”
Along with a shortage of coaches at some U.S. bases across Europe, there’s also a referee crunch, Ramsey said.
The major reason is the rule mandating civilian Department of Defense personnel leave after working five years in Germany.
“All our experienced officials go back to the U.S. after five years,” Ramsey said. “All our seasoned officials go elsewhere.”
That’s a problem because it takes about two years before a new official is truly ready to control a game.
“We try not to have two newbies on the floor at the same time because it can really cause trouble,” Ramsey said. “We have at least one seasoned official on the floor at all times.”
Community sports include basketball, softball, soccer and volleyball for adults.
Before the post-Sept. 11 world of accelerated deployments and additional time in the field, community sports had more than enough referees, said Ramsey, who’s been in Baumholder off and on since he got out of the Army in 1982.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he’d have refs come from satellite communities around Baumholder, such as Neubruecke and Strassburg kaserns, hoping to call a game.
But the years of big teams and lots of refs “are gone,” Ramsey said.
In the old days, it was common to have 40 teams, “and today, we’re lucky if we get 10,” said Joachim Doll, 222nd BSB unit level sports programmer.
“The entire sports program is smaller,” Doll said, with the trend away from team sports and toward individual fitness sports.
As a result, Ramsey said he often calls nearby American military communities at Ramstein or Kaiserslautern looking for refs. He’s even had to draw on officials from as far away as Darmstadt, 100 miles north, and even from Grafenwöhr, more than five hours away by car.
If they could appeal personally to potential sports officials, Doll and Ramsey said they’d let them know they can pick up some extra money, from $20 per game officiating flag football to as much $150 per day refereeing boxing.
But what they’d be giving their communities is immeasurable, Ramsey added.
“The community needs them. Whether they believe it or not, their community needs them.”