Dwindling Numbers

January 29, 2018

Facing a shortage of referees, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association has asked for help throughout the state.

According to the Johnson City Press, the TSSAA said that the rate at which high school officials are retiring exceeds the rate at which the association issues new licenses. As a result, many school sports games are being canceled due to not having enough officials to referee them.

Brent Warner, a Tennessee official, said that there are only two officials who are younger than 30 in the Tri-Cities Baseball Association, and expressed concern for the future.

“In three years I’m going to be scared to death when I go out there,” Warner said. “That’s because I know certain officials won’t be there because they’ve retired.”

Warner said some referees prefer to officiate for middle school games, but for him, the students are most important.

“We have to remember we do this for the kids,” said Warner. “I want kids to look at me 10 years down the road and say, ‘That guy was a good official.’ These days it’s getting to the point where officials are focused on what they’re getting paid.”

According to Warner, pressure from parents and other fans caused some officials to give up.

“The new generation getting into officiating, they get yelled and screamed at and they’re out of it,” Warner said. “They say, ‘I’m not putting up with it.’ They don’t want to go through the ‘cutting your teeth’ phase.”

Warner suggested recruiting referees at a young age, partly because fans are more likely to respect young officials.

“We need coaches to talk to players when they are seniors,” Warner said. “Tell them officials are needed. Then when they are 20 years old, they know the game and they can get spending money by starting to officiate.”

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