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Winter sports officials feel direct impact of postponement

Jace Kooiker, 19, missing out on opportunities
Jace Kooiker
Posted at 11:38 AM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 12:14:30-05

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — While high school winter sport competitions get set to begin on Monday, the postponement has effected more than just athletes.

19-year-old Jace Kooiker is a freshman at Cornerstone University and was already entering his fifth season of officiating basketball at different levels.

Officials feel effects of winter sports delay

However, so far this winter, his big varsity opportunity has been taken away from him.

"This was going to be my big year," Kooiker explained, "I was going to be officiating a full varsity schedule so I was really, really excited about that - to be able to improve and get better."

Jace decided at the age of 14 to follow in his father's footsteps as a basketball official.

"He was ambitious and wanted to make money at first," said his father, Kevin Kooiker, "once you get that first check, I think you realize this is kind of fun and you get to meet people."

Jace Kooiker

His father, Kevin Kooiker has been a high level basketball official for 25 years now at the high school and college levels and Jace was ready to officiate a few games next to him this season.

However, that bonding time is something they've missed over the past few months.

"I don't get to see him a whole lot so for me, as a dad, I'm with my son and we're both making a little extra money and we get that bonding time, we're missing out on that," Kevin added.

Jace and Kevin Kooiker
Jace Kooiker with his father, Kevin.

And Jace says he has taken time with his dad for granted, especially when they're officiating together as they've done in the past on a few occasions.

"It's time for us to spend time together and grow our relationship as well," Jace said about refereeing with his father, "all while we're making money, having fun and serving the community."

Unfortunately, it goes beyond just the relationships for Jace.

After recently starting two part-time jobs prior to the pandemic, he was ineligible for unemployment and is now missing out on officiating money in his first year of college.

"It's been a huge impact," Jace admitted, "I did all my budgeting and I was planning on the money I made this season to pay for a full semester of college."

Jace Kooiker shares his story
Jace Kooiker shares his story with FOX 17's Zach Harig.

Now, he's considering another loan to help pay for college.

"Without that money, now I'm sitting in a tight position and I may have to take out another loan this semester, it's been a big hit on me."

And the Kooiker family admits while Jace's situation isn't ideal, they know of other officials in a much worse situation due to the postponement.

"This hits home a lot, for a lot of them, they rely on this to pay bills," Kevin said, "even my close friends that are planning on this income, it's not coming in right now, so it's tough on everybody."

While everyone involved is ecstatic about the winter sports season returning, the officials will be much busier than usual with the regular season being condensed to just six weeks and most teams playing three games per week.