Michigan continues to struggle finding referees for prep sports

January 31, 2018 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Like more than a dozen other states, Michigan continues to have a hard time finding enough referees to staff high school games, and there’s growing concern over whether that trend will continue.

According to The Grand Rapids Press, the number of registered officials in Michigan has declined nearly 20% over the last decade (from 12,400 to 10,000). Surveys found that change in profession is a major contributor, but they also discovered that sportsmanship issues with coaches and spectators is driving away veteran referees and new recruits.

From The Grand Rapids Press:

“The biggest challenge we’ve seen is that when you are a young official, you start off working seventh- and eighth-grade games, and you work your way up to freshmen and JV, and hopefully in four to five years, the varsity,” said Matt Kuiper, president of the West Michigan Officials Association. “Unfortunately, the toughest games to manage are the seventh- and eighth-grade and ninth- and 10th-grade games. There is inexperience with coaching and players, and most parents at that level think their child is going to be really good. You get (new officials) in there, and they take a lot of grief from coaches and parents.”

“A lot of young (officials) get started, and they figure that it’s just not worth it,” said Michigan High School Athletic Association Assistant Director Mark Uyl. “Or, they want to officiate varsity games now. It’s a combination of those two things, where the guys are coming in and quitting because of the grief they are taking, or they think they are not moving up the ladder fast enough.

“The ones who are really, really talented at a young age, they have a good chance to advance up to the college ranks where the money is a lot more attractive. There is a pathway for them to advance quickly, which is good for them and puts us in a boat of continuing trying to recruit younger, more athletic officials.”

The article is a fantastic, in-depth look at Michigan’s struggle to adequately staff high school games statewide. Some blamed the club sports culture, where they said parents are given too much leeway at games and tournaments to voice their displeasure from the stands.

A number of other states have had problems retaining officials, including Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Oregon. Most have responded by focusing their efforts on recruiting new blood to replace those who are leaving.

Click here to read the full story.

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