High School Basketball Officials in Short Supply

High School Basketball Officials in Short Supply

High School Basketball Officials in Short Supply

Few among us would argue the fact that in the past 20 years or so, youth sports has seemingly exploded in popularity. Many of us grew up with Little League Baseball being pretty much the only organized sport available in our home towns.  By contrast, the youngsters of today have more sports and teams to pick from than I could ever have imagined 40 years ago.  Baseball has been joined by football, hockey, soccer, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and my personal favorite, basketball.  Kids 6 years old and younger are now competing in all of these areas, and by the time they reach the fifth grade they are being recruited to play with various “travel teams.”  For the most part, I think all of this is good for our young people.  I fear, however, that if things don’t change, we may be in for a serious reduction in the opportunities for our kids to participate in competitive sports. I’ve been a basketball official since 1985.  My first training class was held on the day after my daughter was born.  It’s been in my blood ever since, and it’s hard for me to imagine taking off the stripes and putting my whistle down for the last time.  But at 60 years old and counting, I know that day can’t be too far off.  The problem is this:  as I look around the room during the meetings of our local officials’ association, I see more people who are close to my age than I do young folks.  Don’t get me wrong; there are young people who are moving up the ladder in the ranks of basketball officiating.  It’s just that for every one of them, there are three “veterans” who will be hanging it up within the next five years.  Combine that fact with the explosion in the number of teams and leagues in the Ohio Valley, and you can see the problem.  There simply aren’t enough referees available to cover the games being played. Five years ago, there wasn’t a single game, at any level, that had to be cancelled due to the lack of officials available to work the game.  This past season (2015-16), schools were forced to cancel more than 50.  Fifty times when children were disappointed; when parents missed the chance to see their kids play.  Fifty times when there just wasn’t anyone available to work the game.  And my guess is it will be worse this year. I’ve never understood why we aren’t absolutely buried in college students looking to take the officiating training course so they could earn some extra money during the year.  The course takes 10-12 weeks, one night per week for 2-3 hours per night.  Upon completion of the course, the student is eligible to work all levels of basketball except high school varsity in both West Virginia and Ohio.  Now, for you college kids who may be reading this, here comes the good part.  You can work at your own pace.  One night a week or seven days a week, it’s your choice.  Each time you are scheduled you can expect to work two, and sometimes three games.  You generally start by 5 p.m., and you are done by 7-7:30 p.m.  And you get paid, in cash, on the spot.  That means you can walk away with $50-$75 in your pocket each day you work, and you can work up to seven days a week during the season.  You do the math.  During the season, an official working only grade school and junior high games can make $500 or more a month working only three days each week. We are in desperate need of young people to get involved in basketball officiating here in the Ohio Valley.  It isn’t just about the money; it’s about the love of the game, and the desire to help our youngsters learn the valuable lessons that only competitive sports can teach.  If officiating is something you might be willing to give a shot, please get in touch with me.  You can email me at jearef@aol.com, or call me at 304-639-7272.  Give it a shot.  You just might discover you love it.