CNY & NYS Battle Shortage of High School Sports Officials CNY & NYS Battle Shortage of High School Sports Officials

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The New York State Public High School Athletic Association is campaigning for people to sign on as high school referees amid a shortage of officials. The shortage has been ongoing for years but it has gotten worse since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need officials,” said Chris Watson, Communication Director for the NYSPHSAA. “We need them in all sports. It’s not just a male issue in the sport of football or a female in the sport of volleyball, it’s officials across the board.”

The problem is due to:

  • Officials are uncomfortable with COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Officials are busier than ever because of their own full-time jobs and less help.
  • The way officials are treated while working.

“It’s come to a point where in some cases that people just turn away, they don’t want to work anymore,” said Danny Abreu, a CNY high school referee.

Abreu has been an official for six years, working basketball and lacrosse games. He has two sons who used to play sports, and this allows him to stay close to the games and to get involved with giving back to young kids in the community.

He officiates in addition to his full-time job as a salesman at Napa Auto Parts in Syracuse. The lack of other officials has meant Abreu taking on twice as much work as he usually would. Right now, he’s in a stretch of working a game eight nights in a row, getting a couple of days off, and jumping back in the rotation again.

“I like it, but for some officials, it’s a problem,” Abreu said.

The main things the NYPHSAA uses to recruit people is the extra pay you can bring in besides from your full-time job, and, more importantly, a chance to give back to a sport you love and to young people in the community.

Watson said they don’t have an exact number of officials they want to bring on, but are looking for younger officials to come and relieve the older ones who are already retirement-age and want to stop.

Part of the solution comes with how people treat officials while they work.

“Taking care of them, and making sure that they’re in a work environment they want to be in,” Watson said. “I think it starts with all of us. It starts with spectators, fans, moms and dads. How we treat officials is indicated in whether they come back or not.”


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