By Paul Lecker
The national shortage of game officials hitting youth and school sports has been ongoing for a decade. The ongoing pandemic has made it worse.
After a slight increase in registered officials in 2019-20, the WIAA saw a drop of more than 1,400 in 2020-21 to 7,800, and another decrease of more than 1,700 heading into the current school year.
Now, with nearly 4,000 fewer registered officials than in 2010, the WIAA is pushing for some new blood to enter into the mix so that it can continue to provide education-based athletics at the highest level going forward.
On top of health concerns, sportsmanship, or the lack of it from fans and parents are attributed to a large portion of the decrease.
“There’s been a lot of publicity of how the officials are being treated by fans, coaches and athletes, and so on,” WIAA assistant director Kate Peterson-Abiad said. “It seems like the officials report that the highest percentage of grief that they get while they are working comes from the fans and parents. I know that’s part of it, the culture of these games is really toxic for these officials.”
Her message, in essence, is if people want to have their kids play competitive sports and have enough officials to go around, there needs to be a change.
“Would you go into your office space – think of sentences you have said to an official, you have shouted in public at an official, who’s at work,” Peterson-Abiad said. “Would you say that same thing if you were standing in your office with that individual in a work environment? Would you say this to a professor, a boss, a CEO? We have to be able to relate to the fact that these people are at work. Everyone hears things that would never be tolerated in a work environment. You would be fired as an employee talking to someone like that.
“Sportsmanship is a big, big piece of this classroom and it extends to the parents.”
View Peterson-Abiad’s entire interview with Jason Zaleski above.