Three Factors That Chase Away Youth Sport Referees

There’s a huge deficit in youth sports that we usually don’t think about. Statistics show that there is a massive shortage of referees present day: the refs who are still on the field are “aging out, and the younger candidates are no longer stepping up to the plate in the past years” (USA Today). This alarming scarcity of refs is causing emergency recruitment across the country, but why are they being driven away in the first place? I can tell you why. It’s because of the pay, abuse, and risk of injury.

The main reason why there is a lack of referees is because of the pay. Officials are clearly underpaid, and everyone knows it. Obviously, no one wants to waste their time doing hard work and get almost nothing for it. Consider this, a typical varsity football ref makes about $60-$70 a game, and that’s not that much. If you really think about it, refs have to put that hard-earned money into transportation to get to the games they officiate and gear, so they lose money trying to make it. Altogether, there isn’t much takeaway for the games they oversee.

Another major factor that repels refs is the abuse. It’s a refs job to make sure that the rules are abided by the players as they make the calls in the game, but of course, this never settle with every single person. There’s always someone unhappy with a call the ref makes no matter who it is. Referees receive a lot of verbal abuse from coaches, parents in the stands, and players on the field. In some cases, there is even physical abuse. For example, “Terry Walsh, a 34-year veteran of officiating in Dutchess County, N.Y., recalls when a varsity boys coach went after the referees after a game. He was kicking the door of the locker room and, when Walsh opened the door, the coach grabbed him and slammed him against a wall before players intervened” (USA Today). Without respect, it’s no wonder why no one wants to be an official.

Contrary to popular belief, the athletes playing aren’t the only ones who can get hurt in a game. Keeping up with the play as a ref is already tiring and strenuous on the body as it is, but like the players, refs also have the risk of injury. For instance, I recently went to a high school playoff hockey game, and a sideline ref that was starting the play was hit by the end of a player’s stick right after he threw the puck down. He took the hit directly to the face, fell to the ice, and started bleeding. Multiple times in my soccer career, refs have been hit hard by the ball, but that isn’t the most interesting that I’ve seen. Once in a tournament soccer game I played in, the center referee had to stop right in the middle of the game to vomit in the nearest trash can because it was so hot outside and it made him nauseous. It can be seen that there are countless ways refs can obtain injuries. Even though this aspect may not occur as often as the lack of pay and abuse, it’s still an issue that happens, and this is another part of why people don’t want to do it.

To sum it up, referees aren’t paid enough to deal with all of the harassment and potential of injury. This mistreatment is the sole reason why we don’t have many at our disposal, and it’s nobody’s fault but ours. Ultimately, officials need to be praised instead of abused, and if this happens, youths would have these people to ref their games.