Working as an official in a high school is a position that requires people to have a relatively wide range of skills and knowledge, as well as a particular mentality and interest in sports. People who fit these criteria are sometimes hard to find. This leads to a shortage of officials at the high school sports level. The lack of officials is localized to certain sports at the moment, but it keeps growing (A. Buskirk, personal communication, June 10, 2020). It means that the problem keeps developing, and it is necessary to take some urgent measures to prevent it. The purpose of this paper is to discuss different aspects of the work of officials in this area and suggest ways to develop and maintain their posts.
In any case, the work of an official in sports is quite attractive for many reasons. Officials can have a high salary because it often depends on the number of games held. The more effort they put into the organization, the more benefits they get from it (Spitz et al., 2018). There is also a possibility of working on a flexible schedule. This work has a certain level of freedom, so officials can independently set their timetables and manage their work process. Some officials also choose this job because they like to stay active and want to be involved in activities related to their favorite sports.
Unfortunately, many reasons affect the deterioration of the attitude of officials to their profession. An essential factor in any work is support from the community. Indeed, on the one hand, sports officials can be welcomed by society. Such people develop the physical health of children, therefore, affect new generations well. On the other hand, there are certain stereotypes associated, for example, with corruption or the lack of prestige in this job (Duvinage & Jost, 2019). Undoubtedly, most officials work sincerely and honestly, making efforts for social prosperity. However, they are also criticized by strangers, which demoralizes them and forces them to quit the job.
There is an extremely serious issue related to the abuse from fans, coaches, and players. Sports are related to multiple emotions and, undoubtedly, they should be expressed, which is not always beneficial for the officials. Sometimes they can resist the abuse, but this pressure is anyway hard to endure all the time. Thus, people quit their job unsatisfied and live with a negative impression about the profession. Niehoff (2020) assumes that “inappropriate behavior by parents and other fans was causing officials to quit before they even reached two years on the job” (para. 5).
It is essential to note the need for enthusiasm in any work, especially if it is related to both sports and working with children. Ilardi (2018) states that “sports are important extracurricular activities that engage youth and help teach them life skills” (p. 6). Therefore, a job related to it is crucial for students. In part, this is similar to the work of teachers who need the same qualities as the officials. Many people can remain in this state of mind for a long time. However, over time, enthusiasm disappears, and people quit. Moreover, a problem related to it is that officials get older and become less attractive employees. They feel competition from young professionals and, at some point, understand that it would be better to leave.
There is also a problem common to many professions, especially in the field of education. Government institutions sometimes cannot provide people with decent working conditions. This includes, for example, the workplace, medical support, and other aspects. It is also important to mention that the official’s minimum salary at a high school sports level starts at $ 22,000 a year (Dozier, 2019). It grows over time, but it cannot be said that this is enough for a full-fledged existence. However, sometimes this level of salary is maintained for years, which demotivates people. Nevertheless, having gained specific experience and becoming professionals, people have the right to demand worthy compensation. Without receiving it, they have the right to leave, which is another reason for the shortage of officials.
An insufficient number of officials sometimes affects the number of sports games held at school. The low level of management and the lack of a responsible person do not allow organizing events. Many do not have time or money for this; also, not all coaches or directors are aware of all the details of the organization process. Therefore, games are canceled or rescheduled, which can demotivate a significant part of the school students. Another significant problem is the negative behavior of fans (C. Karazsia, personal communication, June 12, 2020). Sometimes they act inappropriately, which causes stress and leads to the shortage as well.
There are various ways to reduce the shortage of officials and staff turnover. Thanks to the allocation of sufficient funds and their proper distribution, making the work of an official truly attractive is possible. For instance, an important factor is an insurance because this job is related to physical activity that can be dangerous sometimes. Thus, it is worth once again dwelling on the issue of salary and calculating a decent level of payment for officials. Often this factor is one of the most important when choosing a profession and working in the same place for many years. With the right approach, the recruitment process will become easier and faster. However, it also needs special employees who will find and interview new professionals.
It is necessary to build a clear and understandable job structure that would allow inexperienced officials to receive mentoring from the outside. Some of them, having achieved specific results, do not know how to develop further. However, their current responsibilities are not too interesting for them, and they want career growth. Therefore, a person of a higher level is needed to help in the development process. This means that now it is necessary to educate those officials who will become mentors in the future, and hire new ones interested in training. This issue would also require the creation of associations in multiple states to build a reliable and friendly community.
Much attention should be paid to the social side of the issue. Now it is easy to influence people through advertising and social media, truly changing their worldview. Thus, conducting extensive advertising campaigns related to the employment of officials can be extremely useful. On the one hand, advertising will attract those people who have already thought about this work. On the other hand, an advertisement telling about the advantages of an official’s work will make it more attractive in other people’s eyes. They will treat officials with great respect and interest, supporting this profession.
Working as an official at the high school sports level is an interesting and important profession. Officials have a high level of freedom and responsibility. They can plan their schedule, communicate with different people, and receive a decent salary. However, multiple problems including social, financial, and psychological sides of this profession cause a shortage of officials. To resolve them, it is necessary to take measures related to salary, training, workplace comfort, and other aspects. Thus, the prestige of this position will increase, and school leaders will be able to avoid a shortage.
Dozier, L. (2019). High school basketball referee’s salary. Career Trend. Web.
Duvinage, C., & Jost, P. (2019). The role of referees in professional sport contests. Journal of Sports Economics, 20(8), 1014-1050.
Ilardi, R. (2018). Factors that affect retention of sport officials. Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education Synthesis Projects, 49, 3-37.
Niehoff, K. (2020). Let’s gain new appreciation for officials during down time. NHFS News. Web.
Spitz, J., Moors, P., Wagemans. J., & Helsen, W.F. (2018). The impact of video speed on the decision-making process of sports officials. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3(1), 16.