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OTS – Abuse, Pay Driving Referees Away in Public High Schools

via Lohud, The Journal News – Part of the USA Today News Network – photo by Alex H Wagner, Poughkeepsie Journal  
Author’s Note:  (OTS stands for Outside the State) As part of our offseason look at issues that affect the growth of lacrosse in general we have this article published on May 10th, sent to me by someone who is in the middle of this issue.  The article is written by Lohud, which likely stands for the Lower Hudson Valley area of New York . . . an area that is no stranger to long time lacrosse activity.  I am excerpting and linking to it to show that the issue of abuse of officials and their subsequent reaction to it by giving up their referee duties, is not only a local Florida phenomenon, but also prevalent in areas of even more lacrosse history. Parents and coaches beware.  One day there will not be enough referees to go around and that’s not something we all want to have to deal with.  Make sure to watch the video included at the top of the article.
  Excerpt: A shrinking pool of high school referees and officials is threatening to reshape a staple of the American culture — the afternoon and weekend interscholastic contests — and New York’s fields and courts are feeling the impact, according to national and New York experts. So alarming is the number of dwindling officials that the leading U.S. agency overseeing high school sports has put out an emergency recruitment effort to reverse the trend. New York’s sister agency followed suit with a full page ad. The key culprits for the decline include:
  • the culture of abuse aimed at officials across all sports.
  • the aging of the current crop of officials that many say is a harbinger of a looming disaster.
  • the explosion of travel and club teams and games that compete for high school officials’ time.
  • a pay scale that some say should be increased dramatically.
  • a dramatic shift in time constraints on younger men and women who used to gravitate to the avocation.
Perhaps no statistic underscored the situation more than this one: An average of only two of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. “The issue is twofold. First, we must find ways to recruit more men and women to become involved in officiating high school sports. Second, we have to address issues that are causing these individuals to discontinue their service as contest officials,” according to the association’s article on its website, published  April 6. As part of the national trend, the Hudson Valley has been experiencing a brain drain of sorts in a variety of sports. Officials who oversee sports in Sections 1 (Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties) and 9 (Dutchess, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties) are in such short supply for varsity games that league officials are pulling refs from junior varsity, freshman and middle school games. While it is rare now to have games at the varsity level canceled due to the shortage, the future promises more unless the problem is addressed. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association ran a full-page ad in its winter sports state tournament program in March. But the association fears it will not be enough and, from Poughkeepsie to Bronxville, coaches, athletic directors and league officials worry about the impending crisis. Among the findings of the investigation by the New York USA Today Network sites:
  • In the last 15 years, Section 1 saw the number of kids playing sports rise from 55,000  to 71,000; and the number of teams jump from 3,268 to 3,643.
  • In the same period, Section 9 saw its ranks increase from nearly 27,000 to 31,500 kids; and the number of teams rose from 1,564 to 1,824.
  • In the last two years alone, the number of officials working for the NYSPHSAA dropped by 160 to 2,296.
  • Refs can make as much as $1,000 a week doing multiple games when officiating non-scholastic travel athletics, with one report claiming several officials handling multiple sports earned over $70,000 per year.
  • Since 1971-72, the number of high school athletes nationally has doubled, from 4 million to 8 million.
“The shortage is something we discuss constantly among ourselves,” said Scott Caruthers, a Poughkeepsie resident and longtime soccer, baseball and lacrosse official for Sections 1 and 9. “We’ve put posters up, contacted schools, and I’ll bring it up to people in conversation … The payment is pretty good, but we still have a hard time getting people.”   Read the rest HERE