One of the biggest issues affecting youth and high school sports is the lack of sports officials. For various reasons, officials leave the profession after only a year or two, leading to the current shortage affecting Wisconsin.
According to the WIAA in an op-ed piece that ran in most publications recently, there's one significant cause of the high rate of washout by young officials: fan behavior. From their op-ed:
"According to a recent survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say “adult behavior” is the primary reason they quit. And 80 percent of all young officials hang up their stripes after just two years of whistle blowing. Why? They don’t need your abuse. "
While this isn't meant to be an indictment of all fans, it does pertain to the rowdy few who ultimately become the reason younger officials decide to hang up the whistle and leave officiating for good before they really get going. There's also a compound effect from the inability of sports organizations to retain officials:
"Plus, there’s a ripple effect. There are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them. If there are no officials, there are no games. The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in some areas that athletic events are being postponed or canceled—especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels. "
Some schools have posted in recent weeks about the issue. The Trailways Conference Twitter feed, easily one of the most informative high school sport association accounts on the internet, reported in a late 2018 post that "100% of the cases" of bad fan behavior, it's been adults involved. Earlier in the month, a post went up citing a post from another state about the lack of officials forcing Friday night football games to be moved to another night during the week, suggesting that the Trailways may have to do the same thing. Benton AD Kyle Kern posted on January 15 that their search for football officials is desperate, half-joking that the travel for potential crews was being offered in airfare rather than distance.
WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson discusses the issue and the op-ed in our interview below, offering some insight on what brought about the piece, as well as ways for those interested to become involved in sports officiating.
- If you would like to become a sports official, you can learn more by going here.
- The WIAA also offers numerous resources for officials, which you can find here.
Anderson says that while the sky isn't falling, it is an urgent issue, and that the WIAA will gladly guide anyone who wants to become a sports official along the way and make the process as easy as possible.
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