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Archive for June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017 — More disappearing stripes

This story came out yesterday in The Washington Post.

There is a lot to digest in this, especially some of the stated reasons delineated in the article for the reasons why game officials in many sports don’t return. And they go far beyond verbal or physical abuse and confrontations.

I’ll give you some perspective on a few:

  1. Low pay. There used to be certain competitions where boys’ sports officials were paid a third more than girls’ sports. I know there are some officials organizations which have advocated for better pay, which has allowed officials to make a pretty good living. But at other times, the pay is so low that the game official loses money in the mileage needed to go the game.
  2. Cherry-picking. There are still places in the United States where coaches are allowed to choose members of the pool of game officials for postseason play. This puts coaches in the position of possibly choosing against officials who may have missed a call or judgment.
  3. Continuous development. If you watch the mini-documentaries on NFL referees, you’ll notice that the officials are coached up constantly. They watch video, take a mini-quiz, and will sometimes make up game scenarios in the form of questions to test teach other. In U.S. high schools, you can get certification in the preseason to be rated for a certain level, and you keep that level for the season no matter what happens.

But there is, I think, another reason for the lack of retention for game officials in youth sports. It’s because there is an entire new class of youth sports officials which have come into being in the last few years. These are the officials who oversee elite-level competitions sponsored by national government bodies of sport, whether it is the Olympic Development Program or the U.S. Soccer Development Academy; the National Club Championships in field hockey; or any number of travel softball, baseball, or lacrosse tournaments which have cropped up like weeds across America.

These are competitions which occur on weekends and attract elite players and teams — presumably ones who know the rules. But even then, there’s no guarantee. If you read websites carefully, you’ll note how complicated and expansive the Code of Conduct is for players, coaches, teams, and their supporters have become the last few years.

And these regulations are written for a reason.