“Games canceled — no officials.”
This headline is becoming increasingly frequent. High school and middle school athletes, coaches, administrators, kids, parents and fans are all paying the price.
Why is it so hard to get new sports officials? As a retired basketball and baseball official and current commissioner of a basketball officials’ association, I can give you my opinion(s). Officiating any sport requires desire, dedication, training, time, money and tolerance. An official of any sport must enjoy the sport, enjoy the kids and want to be the best official possible. He or she must be able to sacrifice some free time and be a little tolerant of exuberant fans.
I began officiating basketball and baseball in 1976 and our local officials’ association had over 30 members ranging in age from 19 to 68. Of course, those were the “boom” years in Harney and Grant County. Today I have just eight basketball officials to cover six high schools and three middle schools. Yes, COVID had a significant role in the loss of officials, but most of the officials we lost were close to retiring anyway. We cannot seem to get any of the younger generation interested in becoming an official. The No. 1 reason I get is “With my job, I just don’t have time” or “I don’t think I could deal with the abuse from the fans.”
Jobs are a legitimate excuse, and I cannot blame a young person for that, but the fan abuse is being addressed at the local and state levels, and from everything I can see at various sporting events, fans are helping with the problem by policing themselves. Coaches are now conducting themselves more professionally in their interaction with officials.
If we are unable to reverse the current downward trend in our number of officials, it will not be long before there are no officials for middle school contests, frosh/soph/junior varsity and eventually varsity contests. We are already at the point in basketball that after receiving the schedule from six schools, I must ask athletic directors to try and change Friday and Saturday games to a Monday or Wednesday. These types of changes have a trickle-down effect and cause problems with the visiting teams, busing, practice schedules, parents and fans.
We need new people to get involved! The costs associated with becoming a certified sports official are minimal, about $80 for the registration fee with the OSAA, and in basketball the uniform, including shoes, will be around $150. To hopefully attract interest, the schools in our region, in cooperation with the Strawberry Basketball Officials Association, have pledged funds to help offset the cost of getting started. If you have any interest in “giving back” and helping to ensure our athletes continue to have competitive sports, please contact me at 541-589-2593 or email@example.com. If you are interested in officiating baseball, softball, football, volleyball, basketball or wrestling, I will put you in touch with the right person to get you started.
I can assure you that the commissioner for any of the sports will make every effort to ensure that your regular job is affected as little as possible. The compensation for all sports officials has increased in the past few years, and if your schedule permits you can have as many or few games per week as want.
Let us put an end to cancellations and postponements due to no officials! Call or email me today. I will provide you with any information you need to help make your decision to become a certified sports official.