S.C. organizations work to stay on top of referee shortage
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are having trouble recruiting and retaining officials at sports games.
Long-term officials retiring, the addition of new schools and worsened behavior from fans are just a few reasons adding to the current referee shortage.
“We’re getting close to being below where we need to be to be able to cover the basic necessities of all of our sports,” said Charlie Wentzky, the deputy commissioner for the South Carolina High School League.
“In many cases, we have officials who are working two sports at the same time,” said Wentzky. “They’ll work baseball, softball. They’ll work football, volleyball. Especially, I know there’s a lot in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee that are doing volleyball and football which limits who we have on Wednesday nights and Thursday nights for JV and middle school games. So it’s a constant rolling impact of shortages.”
So far, there haven’t been any games that have been canceled or moved to another date, because of the shortages.
“We’re at that teetering point thankfully,” said Wentzky. “We’ve been able to cover 99% of our games without making any major adjustments, but we need to focus on getting these new folks coming in because we are gonna lose a lot of folks soon because of age or just the physical ability not to be able to do the work.”
It’s not just impacting high school sports.
District 11 director for the South Carolina Basketball Officials Association, Jake Rosiek, said that they’ve been actively recruiting officials since last season.
“Between middle school, rec leagues that contract us, JV and varsity basketball, and that’s with the high school league,” said Rosiek. “Additionally in this area, we also officiate SCISA, which is the independent schools, so we got six SCISA schools that are in this area too, so that kind of adds to the workload and you know. Horry County especially is growing by leaps and bounds. We added three middle schools in the last two to three years so there’s another two nights a week.”
Rosiek said that two out of three referees don’t officiate longer than three years.
“From an assigning perspective, you know, what I do. We probably need about 25% more officials,” Rosiek said.
Both the SCBOA and the SCHSL work all year long to recruit referees. Although they look for people with some knowledge of the sport, their classes teach new officials everything they need to know.
“We teach what’s called mechanics,” said Rosiek. “Basically where you stand, what you’re looking at, how you blow the whistle, what you do with your arms, signaling, ext..”
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