Lacrosse grows in popularity, even while shortage of refs persists

April 25, 2019 06:08 PM

Lacrosse is a exploding in popularity, not just in Minnesota, but across the country. 

Just seven years ago, the number of boys and girls teams statewide numbered in the 70s. But during the last school year, more than 100 schools fielded lacrosse teams, with close to 4,000 students participating.


Both boys and girls seem to love the constant motion, the physical contact and the skills required to pass, catch and shoot.

But with the growing popularity has come a difficulty in finding enough officials.

Brad Scibak is the president of the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Officials Association (UMLOA). He has also played, coached and refereed lacrosse for more than 40 years all over the world. 

One of his main duties now is finding refs for boys games.

"We are scrambling right now to readjust games to cover all the boys games that will be played tonight," he said.

RELATED: Local organization works to 'stop the madness' in youth sports

Scibak says when it comes to finding bodies to officiate games, there just aren't enough.

"There is a huge shortage of officials," he said. "Where we'd like to work officials two-to-three days a week, we're actually doing it in most cases four, five, six, seven days a week."

The White Bear Lake-Columbia Heights girls lacrosse game was canceled Thursday due to the shortage.

Scibak said part of the struggle has to do with the fast growth of the sport. The other part has to do with the wrath of coaches and fans.

"If they see what we get on a day-to-day basis, the abuse and harassment, they don't want to come out and do this," he said. "They'll find themselves a job doing something else."

It's an issue that has been facing many high school sports, including football last fall and basketball over the winter.

RELATED: MSHSL faces issues retaining youth sports officials

The Minnesota State High School League acknowledges the problem, and said it is working to recruit more refs and keep them.

"We just need to get more people out and treat them really well so they make it through the first few years and they'll stay in the program," Scibak said.

Retention is a big deal. Scibak said 85 percent of youth refs in all sports leave after the first or second year.

While some teams compete, others wait, hoping enough refs will at least allow for a rescheduled game. Scibak wants to change that, and said questions could be referred to

The White Bear Lake-Columbia Heights girls lacrosse game has been rescheduled for Monday.

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Jessica Miles

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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