(1-25-17) In recent years Ohio, like many other states, is facing a shortage of qualified game officials. It’s not in just one particular sport but a majority of them.
The best way to find out why this is taking place, we asked two veteran Ohio officials to give us some insight on this issue that is one of great interest to many state associations and high school AD’s.
Doug Billerman, who is an Ohio native, was honored as the 2014-15 OHSAA Boys Soccer Official of the Year, he currently lives in the Marion Local school district and graduated from Celina.
Pat Houseworth, a Celina grad and still lives in that community, is a veteran official of football, basketball and baseball. Houseworth, who is retired, also did many years of high school broadcasting on WCSM, before he decided to become an official.
Both gave us some great insight on what is facing today’s high school officials and why the troubling loss in numbers is taking place.
I wanted to start with saying that I enjoy officiating. It does take some time to get use to the level of the game you may be working until you work matches for a few years. But, if a young athlete that played a sport for let us say for 15 years or more of their lives; I would think they could make the adjustment to become an official / referee in that particular sport. Officiating fits my work; life schedule. I wished sometimes that I could have coached; but the time involved in coaching is far greater than officiating as you know. So, why the lack of officials then at HS level:
(1) Age of officials; current officials keep aging, get older each year but we then officiate the SAME AGE of young athletes. Bigger, faster, stronger…. in some HS programs this is very true. Then we as aging officials try to keep up and get injured. So, then having to hang it up or do younger ages.
(2) Pay – Compensation: is another that we hear from the perspective as I am the local Association Secretary for the Lima, Ohio area. There is always a conversation of increasing the game fees or at least having some consistency in the leagues near the area.
(3) Another issue is lower numbers of soccer referees in general, mostly generated by the USSF Referee Program. HS soccer referees generally are a subset of this referee development and training program. New young referees cannot handle the criticism of coaches and parents while they are learning and more than half drop out of the system after 1 year of registration. Soccer is unique because of the low scoring, and a referee mistake can result in a game loss. Spectators demand perfection from the new referees (not necessarily from the players) and create an environment that young referees have a difficult time surviving through.
The lack of respect in a good number of cases by parents, fans, and in recent years of my 19 years as an OHSAA official the student – athletes on the pitch / field. Things that are not taught to them about self control / composure as I was taught and many others by our coaches back in the early 90s.
Thank you for trying to spread the word on this. I know a lot of sports are feeling the pinch. I do Baseball / Girls Fast pitch softball in the Spring ; there is a similar need for umpires too especially for the younger ; JV to Junior High level of officials.
Veteran official Pat Houseworth from Celina, has officiated football, basketball and baseball:
Why the Shortage? In my opinion, much like participation of students, many people, especially the younger folks have more opportunities and other interests. The Internet, Video Games, Social Media, IPhones…with those items available participation sports for players and potential officials, ‘Sitting the Bench’ or running up and down the field and floors might not be attractive.
What Can Be Done about the Shortage of Officials in Ohio? In my opinion, and we are starting it in Ohio, allow 14+ to get their Class 3 license and make some good money doing lower level games, see if they like it, and are willing to continue as they mature. The major fly in that ointment are lower level (and it goes for some upper level coaches as well) coaches see a young guy or gal and think they can intimidate them. Nobody these days will put up with that for long. Yes we have fines and punishment for those that get “Booted“, but by that time, it might be to late, the younger officials may have already been poisoned. Guys like me at 67, with a Military Police/Vietnam background are not going to put up with it and most of us don’t catch the major grief. I’m not talking about coaches getting excited and mad, they all do, I’m talking about abusing officials verbally, which in turns gets the leather lung fans going as well and that is another issue.
Fans? Yea, there are some bad apples…heck, I was probably a bad apple back in my day sitting in the front row at Celina Basketball Games with my season ticket….sometimes you let the verbiage roll off your back…other times I take a stand, and especially at youth/lower level games you have to toss them. I have a few “points” and “lines” I won’t let a fan cross…if they do…Bye-Bye.
Money? I read in a local article that one of our OHSAA Higher Ups mentioned money. I’ve got to say…“I doubt money is the issue for most of us”. Sure some folks are in it for the money, but most of us just want to get out, enjoy the fresh air or stay busy and get some extra work outs, especially indoor sports, like Basketball in the Winter months. Sure we would all like to make more money, I’m getting $40 to do a Freshman basketball game down the street or if I have to drive 100 miles each way on a Saturday to make $140 to work a Varsity (double header ) Baseball game at Willard, it is not going to make a difference to me, sure I’m retired and I like to work different venues and locations, some would rather stay closer to home. But I don’t believe money is the main factor, just my 2 cents on that.
Why folks leave? Coaches, fans, sore limbs, age, regular job changes, those are all part of the issues, but I believe the reason that good, solid, Officials, that put hours, days, month and years, in a sport or into multiple sports, are getting out is in great part to:
“The Good Ol Boy System”
Saying this, I have done every tournament level in baseball that Ohio has to offer, from High School, ACME, and American Legion, so I’m not complaining. In football and basketball I choose not to apply for Tournaments because frankly those two sports I do for the workouts and to get off the couch . I need time in between, so I don’t fill out tournament applications. In Basketball I really don’t work enough Varsity games to even qualify these days and that takes care of that issue. My beef, and the good ones that leave are tired of getting short changed in Tournament assignments after working years to sharpen their craft, they see younger and yes, older, less qualified officials, who happen to be in the “Click” with the right person to get the gigs…right or wrong they feel slighted and finally get fed up and decide to do something else with their spare time!
Other states are facing the same shortage of officials, below is replies from Alabama, Florida, Illinois and Idaho state associations on the current situation:
Sam Knox – Illinois High School Association Assistant Executive Director
The low number of sports officials is not just specific to Illinois. It is a nation-wide issue. Many states are experimenting with new ideas to recruit officials and to make an appeal to those who might be interested in staying involved with high school athletics.
In Illinois, we offer two free registrations each school year to every IHSA member school in the state. We encourage the principal and athletic director to identify two students who have the characteristics of a good official to register with the IHSA.
Officiating is a terrific way to stay involved with high school sports and help today’s kids have a great experience in athletics. We welcome anyone who has an interest in officiating to register with the IHSA. Age is not a factor as we receive new registrations every year from college-age students as well as empty nesters.
There are so many opportunities as an official. Folks can register in one sport or in multiple sports and can be as involved as they want to be as they build their schedule of games and tournaments to fit their lifestyle. Some officials work games several times a week while others take a lighter schedule and only officiate every once in a while. Some are content with officiating junior high and freshman/JV games while others pursue their goals of eventually being assigned to a State Finals event.
We aren’t at a point yet where schools are having to reschedule games due to a lack of officials, but in some sports, there is a legitimate concern about what the landscape might look like in a few years as many of our veteran officials hang up their whistles.
Those who have ever considered officiating but aren’t sure where to start can contact the IHSA office or a local official who lives nearby. There are many people in the officiating community who are eager to help new officials get started.
Idaho has experienced a shortage in some sports such as football and soccer. Those commissioners have worked with schools to change game times and dates in order to accommodate. We have even been using officials from other surrounding states. Our commissioners are working with local colleges and schools in an effort to increase the number of officials that they have.
Ron Ingram, AHSAA Director of Communications
The AHSAA has realized that the average age of high school contest officials is getting much higher. That is one of the main reasons the AHSAA and former Director of Officials Greg Brewer spearheaded a plan to make officiating a course of study in member school high schools.
This year-long course approved by the Alabama State Board of Education allows students to take the course for credit and deals with officiating in most of the sports offered for AHSAA member schools. The course of study targets those who have an interest in sports as well as student-athletes who are participating in sports. The AHSAA has been able to add some new, young officials as a result and feels this is one major way we can keep adding officials and avoid the shortage that other states are seeing.
Florida was facing a shortage in 2008, and we initiated a recruiting program through David Voss and Associate (here in Florida) entitled “Get Back in the Game”. In that one year from July of 2008 until June of 2009, we went from 7,800 officials to 8,500 officials. We still have some shortages in specialty areas such as: LaCrosse and Water Polo.
Take a look at what you will face if you decide to become a high school official in Ohio.
1. Beginning Officials – Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer (USSF Grades 9-12), Softball, Volleyball and Wrestling
Step 1: Take OHSAA Officiating Class – Register to use the online system at officials.myohsaa.org. Once registered, complete/edit any profile and contact information and click Choose Sports to indicate which sports you are interested in. Click on the Official profile and Select a Course to review the information and register for a class.
Step 2: Take Officiating Exam – The class concludes with the officiating exam. Applicants must receive a passing score of 75% on the mechanics and rules exams and pass the proficiency portion in order to be a licensed OHSAA official. Successful students may begin officiating interscholastic contests immediately.
Step 3: Complete Concussion Training – Applicants must complete a course on concussion training, prior to officiating.
Step 4: Receive Officiating Permit – Applicants with a passing score will receive their officiating permit in the mail within three weeks from their test date. If you do not receive your permit within this time frame, contact the OHSAA officiating department at 614-267-2502, ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Applicants receiving a grade of 65% to 74% on the mechanics or rules exam may request a retest. Applicants who do not pass the subsequent officiating exam must wait one year to re-enroll in the officiating class and start the application process over.
Step 5: Complete Concussion Training – Applicants must complete a course on concussion training, prior to officiating.
Step 6: Contact your local officiating association – Find a local association in your area
Step 7: Annual Renewal of Permit – Renew your officiating permit annually in June.
Note: During the school year in which the official successfully completes the adult education class, all meeting requirements are waived.
1A. Person who has current certification through USSF (Grades 1-7) or the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association or another sport Association Officiating program
a. Application form with application fee of $60.00 attached for each sport must be completed and sent to the OHSAA. See application deadlines. [ APPLICATION ]
b. Submission of experience and training in sport of interest required.
c. Must pass an online review exam with 80% or higher. See examination dates. Two attempts will be permitted.
d. Must complete a course on concussion training. prior to officiating. (revised 8/9)
e. Must attend minimum required local rules meetings. Meetings attended prior to test shall count towards local meeting requirements.
f. State Rules Interpretation Meeting not required in year tested, but is an annual requirement thereafter.
g. Annual officiating permit fee required for each sport.
1B. Person who has current certification through USSF (Grade 8)
a. Proof of current Grade 8 certification submitted to class instructor.
b. Register to use the online system at officials.myohsaa.org, sign up for and attend 10-hour OHSAA-approved “Bridge” officiating class covering OHSAA, differences between FIFA’s Laws and NFHS Rules, Dual System Officiating Mechanics and Double-Dual System Officiating Mechanics.
c. Score a minimum of 75% on NFHS Rules Test.
d. Score a minimum of 75% on NFHS Class II Mechanics Exam.
e. Must complete a course on concussion training. prior to officiating. (revised 8/9)
f. Annual officiating permit fee is required.
g. After first year, attend an annual State Rules Interpretation Meeting and the required number (i.e. four) Local Rules meetings.