Referee shortage continues along the Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A major component of amateur sports is being threatened.

In a world where programs are growing among schools, referees are getting harder to come by.

Paul Rowe has been roaming the sidelines for 22 years. He gives his opinion on why this happening.

"The referees who have been doing it for 20 years or better are all getting close to 60 or maybe 70 years old," he said. "They're about ready to retire in the next five years and we have no new officials coming in."

USA Today reports the leading U.S. agency overseeing high school sports has put out an emergency recruitment effort to get refs back on the sidelines.

The reasons why refs are blowing the whistle? A variety of factors including amount of pay, age, and the verbal abuse from parents in the stands.

"The fact there's a lot of stress out there on the football field and a lot of people are out there screaming at you, but of course you're there to call the game," Rowe said. "You're not there to pay attention to what people have to say."

It's even grabbed the attention of Frank Martin, the University of South Carolina's basketball coach.

"I'm the most animated coach that you've ever seen when my team is playing," Martin says. "I go watch my kids play and I don't say boo. I don't wave my arms. I don't try to coach my kids."

Still, only two out of every 10 refs make it for their third year of officiating and it's forcing coaches to call their own games.

James Thomas, who coaches his daughter's softball games, is one of them.

"There has been a shortage of referees here. Lately, the last two or three weeks, I noticed there was a couple games early in the morning when we didn't have somebody so I had to assist with reffing games."

The number of referees for all high school sports is decreasing while South Carolina schools are increasing their sports programs. One out of every 100 games is canceled or postponed due to the shortage.

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