Mass. youth sports leagues facing referee shortage | News
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — A shortage of referees is affecting local sports teams. The state struggling to find enough people to officiate games causing them to be rescheduled.
“We aren’t able to have games without the officials.”
Massachusetts is in a pinch struggling to find people to referee youth sports games.
“My son has a third/fourth-grade baseball team this past springtime, and I ended up officiating the game that I was coaching,” Field hockey, basketball, and baseball officiate Bill Welcome said.
Welcome officiates several sports in the area, and he said the pandemic has caused many not to return due to health concerns.
“For baseball, for example, a good portion of the population is well over 50 so, when COVID came they thought of their health and safety,” Welcome explained.
He also said sportsmanship has played a big role.
“Toxic relationships with coaches and parents have been a problem for years, and for people that have been doing it for five, 10, 15 years it gets tiring, and they’re looking to do other things to make that extra income,” Welcome said.
Even incentives haven’t helped pull people in.
“In one town that I work out of where the assigner could not find baseball umpires, he went from $50 a game to $65 and still had trouble. It’s one of those things where for some people it just isn’t worth it,” Welcome said.
It’s not just youth sports; the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association said this affects high school as well.
“What we have learned is if there is a rain date, you’re just not going to be able to schedule it on a certain day because there are not enough officials. So it’s tough to make up games that have to be postponed or canceled for one reason or another,” MIAA Director of Communications Tara Bennett said.
Bennett said the issue didn’t just start with the pandemic.
“This is actually something that’s been years in the making. We’ve been trying to focus on a push for officials for the past three, four, five years,” Bennett said
The state is working on recruitment, partnering with the national federation of high school sports to try to attract people.
“It’s a national social platform campaign through the NFHS so, you’ll see a lot of that on Twitter just in terms of the promotions for the need for the officials. Become an official; we need you,” Bennett said.
For more information on how you can apply to become a referee, visit the MIAA’s website.