Schools See Shortage Of High School Sports Referees

Posted at 11:11 PM, Sep 08, 2016

Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) has reported a shortage of game officials that is critically low across the state.

Across the state nearly 5, 000 officials call games for high school girls and boys sports, but that's far from enough.

Assistant Executive Director of TSSAA Gene Menees said they have lost nearly 300 officials in all sports since last school year.

Menees said the atmosphere of games is a large part of the problem.

“Some of the language they have to put up with, some of the actions they might have to cope with, some decide that sometimes it’s not worth it to for them to leave a family and put up with that for 2 or 3 hours,” Memees said.

Football referees in Middle Tennessee are just some of the officials feeling the shortage.

Thomas Ritter, with the Middle Tennessee Football Officials Association, said while the Nashville area is not short, other nearby counties often need extra help to cover the games.  

“We help out other associations at various times throughout the year,” Ritter said. “But there are weeks that we have to really scramble and try to put together some crews. We some very young officials.”

The shortage trickles down to junior varsity and middle school games, with no one to officiate. For some sports, that means a 13 percent drop in pool officials.

Memees said the pay is another factor for the decline. 

“Some of our better officials if they aspire to work at the college level, they have to travel a little more, put in a little more time but then again the finances are a little bit better,” said Memees.

Recently the TSSAA Board of Control requested a committee study the loss of officials and make recommendations to recruit and retain.

“What we've got to do is be able to recruit and retain officials not for TSSAA, so every game where these kids are playing can be officiated and allow them a chance to play,” Memees said.

The TSSAA also asked every school to identify qualified people who could be potential sports officials and submit their names to the organization.