NSAA struggling with high school referee shortages

The Nebraska Student Activities Association reports a 15 to 20% decrease in high school officials over the past two years.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – According to the Nebraska School Activities Association, finding enough referees to officiate high school sporting events has been a real issue.

“This would be the first time that I’ve been in office that we’ve actually had a concern about the number of officials,” NSAA director of officials Jon Dolliver said.

The NSAA estimates there has been a 15 to 20% decrease in officials over the past two years. The issue has forced the NSAA to schedule games on unusual nights and have referees work multiple games at different locations on the same day. In some instances, basketball games have been officiated with two referees, as opposed to the customary three.

“That’s probably our biggest fear, you know, where games aren’t going to be played maybe on the traditional nights, because we just don’t have enough people to cover all those games on that night,” Dolliver said.

Dolliver says the four most common reasons for officials leaving are age, conflicts with other jobs, not enough time with family, and sportsmanship.

“We feel like the one that we do have control over is sportsmanship and how we do treat our officials,” Dolliver said.

Dolliver says officials he speaks with tell him that treatment of referees has gotten worse over the years.

“It’s not worth it for them to go into a gym on a Friday night and be yelled at by everybody in the stands when they’re just trying to do the best job that they can,” he said.

The NSAA teams up with the University of Nebraska to get young people involved with officiating, but is welcoming anybody, regardless of experience, to contact the organization.

“We can’t play without officials,” Dolliver said. “We may not like some of the calls that they make, or some of the things that they do, but ultimately, they are there to do the best job that they can.”

NSAA officials work anywhere from 20 to 80 games in a year, with ages ranging from kids as young as high school to people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

If you or someone you know is interested in working as an NSAA official, you can apply here.

Categories: High School Sports, Nebraska News