Referee shortage threatens high school sports this fall in Colorado

AURORA, Colorado – The smell of popcorn from the concession stand, the beat of the marching band, the roar of the crowd. High school sports are back, but a shortage of referees threatens the games this fall.

The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) says the shortage has reached a tipping point.

“We’re really in crisis right now, and we can’t provide enough officials for everyone to have games on Friday night,” said Mike Book, CHSAA assistant commissioner and director of referees.

Book referred to Friday night football, but said the shortage of officials includes all sports.

“It’s going to impact all sports,” Book said. “The short-term answer is that we have to move games to weekend nights. And there have already been several schools that have really helped with this. Others have been a little more hesitant to do so.

The shortage is attributed to several factors, including low wages and ongoing pandemic-related staffing issues, but perhaps most importantly is unsportsmanlike behavior on the part of parents and fans.

“Absolutely,” Book said. “I think that’s one of our main problems that we have to solve. When I ask people if they want to get involved in refereeing, the first response I get is, “I don’t want to be yelled at. We cannot accept that this is the number one answer. ”

Hinkley High School head football coach Dennis York said his team had worked too hard and was ready for the season whether it was under the Friday night lights or not.

“We don’t mind playing on a Saturday,” York said. “We don’t mind playing on a Thursday.”

There just aren’t enough umpires to call all the games scheduled for Friday, so if some teams move to Thursday night or Saturday afternoon, the CHSAA says they can use the same umpires on those days. the.

“They are an essential part of the DNA of all sports,” York said. “But a lot of these officials, they’re just tired of being scolded.”

“And really, what it’s all about is kids playing. Right?” said Book, who was a basketball referee for years. “Sport gets kids involved. It teaches them so much about life, about adversity, about teamwork.”

The book says that this year the CHSAA will take action if fans become unruly – a promise to officials to be more proactive.

“I think it’s more than talking, because I think we’ve been talking about it for years,” Book said. “We have to control it. We have to give up and say we can’t have that, because we’re not going to have public servants. And if we don’t have officials, we won’t have games.

Back on the training ground, York says that ultimately it’s each team’s responsibility.

“We are responsible not only for our sidelines, but also for our fans who belong to us,” York said.

Book says the CHSAA also plans to discuss officials’ compensation, as well as fuel consumption for officials who travel long distances for matches as part of a new commitment to address the shortage of officials.

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