MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - For more than a decade athletic associations throughout the country have seen the number of certified referees dwindle, forcing leagues to rescheduled or even cancel games.
“It’s something we’ve really been paying attention to as we’ve seen the shortage and it’s starting to affect us more at the recreation level,” said Myrtle Beach Recreations Director Dustin Jordan.
Jordan said in the past five years, certified officials have becoming tougher to find for all recreational sports.
“We’ve been lucky up to this point not to cancel any games, and our staff has done a great job working it out, but we’ve been closer than people think,” said Jordan.
Even the Ripken Experience, which plays more than 3,000 baseball and softball games each year, is struggling to retain umpires.
“Our problem is they keep getting so good because of the volume of games we play. They get signed to work in minor-league baseball,” said Bobby Holland, the director of the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach.
Certified referee and District II Director of the SC Basketball Officials Association, Jake Rosiek, has more than two decades of experience making calls on the sideline and hardwood and is using that experience to train younger officials.
“What our big problem nationally is that young people aren’t interested in getting into sports, it’s more about sports coaching as opposed to being official,” said Rosiek.
Whether it’s calling a foul on the basketball court, calling a strike during a three-two count behind home plate or even confirming a touchdown in the end zone, officials are always under pressure to get that call right, especially as instant replay becomes more predominant on the collegiate and professional level.
“These guys obviously aren’t out there making a killing, for a relatively small amount of money and the amount of abuse they’re taking I could see how that could affect him,” said Jordan.
Most new officials quit after one season due to the verbal abuse from parents, coaches and players, something experienced refs are trying to change.
“That’s something we’ve tried to work with our local coaches on and give our young officials time to progress a little bit, get some experience and learn before they wash out,” said Rosiek.
Taylor Poth and Ford Slater are part of the slim percentage of referees under they age of 30 and have enjoyed staying close to the sports they played, while earning a little side cash.
“It’s become more than a side hustle for me, it’s how I pay the rent and bills” said Slater.
Recreation or high school referees can earn between $35 - $90 per game depending on the sport, location and experience level.
However many can be made on collegiate and the professional level.
Several referees in the NFL earned over $100,000 per year in 2018.
“I aspire to work at higher levels, so this is something I have to dedicate to my craft and work some of these lower level games and hope to aspire to be on TV some day,” said Poth.
No matter your age, gender or athletic ability, Rosiek encourages anyone to give officiating a try.
“Its a great way to get some exercise, give back to your community as well and stay involved with the sport that you played in the past or maybe one that you haven’t,” said Rosiek.
Rosiek is currently training officials for the upcoming football season on Mondays at Coastal Carolina University and will start basketball certification in August.
For more information contact Jake Rosiek.