MSHSL Faces Issues Retaining Youth Sports Officials

September 25, 2018 06:30 PM

Recruiting and retaining men and women to officiate youth sports is an issue around the country, and also here in Minnesota.

Many don't last due to stressful interactions from parents.


Often, parents get too caught up in a youth sporting event and their frustration turns to anger often directed at coaches or officials.

This year in Minnesota, roughly 6,300 men and women have signed up to referee, ump or judge a youth contest.

According to the Minnesota State High School League, that number is up slightly from last year, but down from eight years ago.

"We're not at a crisis point, but could always use more," said Jason Nickleby, who helps coordinating officiating for the MSHSL.

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Baseball and softball are two of the sports seeing the biggest declines. The number of people willing to referee youth soccer games are also down this year.

Some football games are being played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to make sure refs can cover all the games. 

Adapted sports are in need of officials. And up north, even hockey referees are in demand.

"Our population is going down in those parts of the state, and so it's less of a population to choose from," Nickleby said. "And then when you talk about people who can skate and understand the game, the pool just dwindles."

The league says recruiting isn't the problem, retaining officials is.

"A lot of them leave because they don't have a meaningful mentorship relationship where they can call them when a game doesn't go as well," he said.

A mandatory mentorship program is now in place for new officials. And a "Thank a Ref " program aims to keep the seasoned ones.

For parents, it comes down to respect.

"Parents are emotional, they have a connection to their kid," Nickleby said. "They want their student athlete to do well, which we understand, but you have to know where to draw the line.

Officials can make roughly $50 to $100 per game, depending on the activity and location.

If you are interested in officiatingthe MSHSL would like to hear from you.

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Jessica Miles

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