Student referee numbers dwindle


courtesy of Nico Barbieri

WHS student refs youth soccer game.

Nico Barbieri , Staff Writer

Referee shortages for high school sports in Massachusetts are causing issues for many sports games including those played by youth in Weston.  This has led to referee coordinators attempting to make refereeing more enticing for youth. 

   Lack of referees can lead to trouble setting up games, which could greatly impact sports teams. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), 50,000 high school referees quit between 2018 and 2021(about 20% of the national total of youth referees), the “New York Times” reported. 

   Sara Osborn, referee coordinator for Weston Soccer, believes that there are a few considerations that play into this national shortage.

   “The shortage is because of several factors: Covid driving some referees to stop, the longer recertification process this year, and the general environment around youth sports,” said Osborn. “There is way too much yelling, criticism, and tension at games.”

   Osborn’s conclusion is supported by statistics found in a survey of almost 19,000 referees conducted by Officially Human, an organization that advocates for better treatment of referees. According to the survey, 60% of officials that quit who were surveyed in 2019 cited verbal abuse from parents and coaches as their reason for quitting. 

   Another survey, initiated by the National Association of Sports Officials, found that 39% of officials specified that parents caused the most problems with sportsmanship, while 29% felt coaches caused the most. 

   Despite these challenges, Osborn thinks that refereeing provides vital experiences for teens who participate.

   “Since you can receive your reffing license at age 14, it’s a great way to have a job at a young age,” said Osborn.“Refs can make money, learn responsibility, grow in confidence, and hopefully even have some fun.”

   Sophomore referee David Reznik believes that the issue with revitalizing past referees’ interests can be somewhat blamed on their paycheck.
  “The pay during the shortage of referees also stayed the same even though some referees were doing way more work than they were getting paid for, which caused a lot of them to leave,” said Reznik.

   Reznik believes that the confidence that comes with experience eases difficulty with coaches, parents, and players.

   “For upcoming referees, I recommend being very confident,” said Reznik. “In order for coaches, players, and parents to listen to you, you need to be confident and clear with your calls.”

   Andrey Asparouhov, soccer coach at WHS, has noticed unsportsmanlike misconduct from coaches and players in games he’s been a part of.

   “Often coaches and players blame the referees for the result instead of looking at their own mistakes,” said Asparouhov.

   Asparouhov thinks that the referee experience can be pivotal to increasing soccer and coaching skills.

   “For me every coach should take referee courses and be required to referee at least one game,” Aspaprouhov said. “Soccer players should gain an advantage when becoming referees and also being a referee should help players to be more respectful and understanding while judging on and off the field.”

   Freshman referee Samuel Leonardo thinks that the referee training course is also to blame for the quantity of resigning referees.

   “The [recertification] course this year was very taxing. It took hours to complete [and]… included a Zoom session,” said Leonardo.

    The benefits of being a referee are what keeps Leonardo and others coming back each season.

   “The certification process is annoying, but refereeing provides good money, and it also looks good on a resume,” said Leonardo.