We Need Younger Officials, But Do We Want Them?
Assignors and athletic directors know the statistic well, the average age of a sports official is nearly sixty and, if nothing changes, there will be a shortage of officials for the growing number of people participating. However, there are those who are happy with the current situation and don’t want to see a movement toward recruiting young new officials. What we have is an acknowledged need for new officials for the good of the sport with a lack of desire to take action now.
Shortages empower officials. They can accept only the highest paying assignments. They can’t be compelled to attend meetings or take tests because they know they will still be used. They don’t need to stay in shape, practice, or stay current on the rules. They will work and they know it. I’ve worked high school games with officials who had only a basic knowledge of the game and seldom moved into position to make a call. Yet, they will still work because we need warm bodies.
Shortages empower assignors. Coaches and athletic directors may complain about the quality of officiating to the assignor. The assignor only needs to shrug his shoulders and say, “I told you we are short of officials and that I need you to recruit people in your communities.” There is no point in firing the assignor because all assignors use the same pool of officials.
Shortages empower coaches. Every level of sport from 8u softball to collegiate baseball want experienced and knowledgeable officials. The lack of new officials increases the likelihood of getting an experienced official at a little league game. I once showed up to a 14u softball game thinking it was a high level travel team contest only to discover it was community rec league and it was being officiated by two collegiate umpires. The coaches insisted that they needed the highest quality.
Newer officials require training and nurturing. They make mistakes. They put pressure on officials to remain fit and competent. They remove excuses. They bring down the per game fees. There is a shortage of officials, but it may be a welcome problem.