A Call to Arms

A Call to Arms

A Call to Arms

A Call to Arms – Sports Officials Continue to be in Demand!

Originally posted August 17, 2017.

Sports can have a positive impact on the development and growth of youth and communities, especially underrepresented communities in the US. The Associated Press reports that communities across the country are reinventing themselves to serve as youth sports meccas. A 2009 study by the National Association of Sports Commissions and Ohio University found that participation in youth sports travel increased from 2008 to 2009 during the Great Recession. Accordingly, spending has increased by 10 percent in each of the past two years, and $10.4 billion in spending was generated last year.

From the article: "More teams are going each and every year, because the one thing we found is families will always invest in their kids no matter what," said Jim Arnold, director of business development for The Sports Force & Fields, a planning and management company. For example, Westfield, Indiana (population: 30,000) opened a 400-acre, $49 million complex built with public funds in 2014. Local officials in Florida's Seminole County signed off on a $27 million facility completed in 2016. The Bluegrass Sports Commission in Lexington, Kentucky, has plans for a $30 million complex with multiple multi-use fields. This year, the city of Sandusky, Ohio, opened a $23.5 million facility on 57 acres.

With all of the investments in facilities and youth programs, there continues to be a nationwide shortage of college, high school, and recreation referees that is causing alarm for administrators. The current crop of officials is aging and there aren't enough newcomers to replace them. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, only two of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating. Every state association in the country is feeling the effects of an officials' shortage. It is getting harder and harder, not only to recruit new officials, but to retain them for years to come. That is the challenge that confronts us." (Snyder, 2017)

Besides time demands and low pay, abuse is a major reason fewer young adults gravitate to officiating. Organized sports would die without the men and women who don stripes or blue uniforms. It is incumbent upon educational and professional sport organizations, especially those with Coaches Education or Sport Management and Leadership education programs and services, to develop, maintain, and sustain high quality training and development programs for Sport Officials and Coaches.

Many school-based sports programs have minimal requirements for Coaches and Officials. To become a referee or umpire in Massachusetts, one begins by contacting the board of officials in your area. Local boards prepare prospective high school sports referees to officiate the following MIAA sanctioned sports: football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, ice hockey, wrestling, volleyball, field hockey, baseball, softball, gymnastics, rugby, swimming and track & field. Underrepresented communities in MA, including areas in Boston (Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, etc.), Lowell, Worcester, Springfield suffer the most from what Chris Sumner, former Chief Operations Officer, Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Center in Dorchester calls “Officiating and Coaching Deserts. Our communities, and especially our youth, are missing out on athletic and enrichment opportunities as there is a shortage of qualified officials and coaches in these underrepresented communities. This is what I mean by a Coach and Official Desert.”

Typically, local boards are responsible for recruiting and training new officials. In most cases the training involves attending classes where the rules of your sport are presented by an experienced member of the board. Once you complete the program, you will be given a written exam created by the NFHS or other certifying organization to test your understanding of the rules of your sport. Depending on the sport, you may also be required to participate in in-game training sessions to help you with your calls, positioning and signals during actual game play. The instructor from your board will observe and critique your in-game mechanics as well to be sure that you are ready to begin officiating (Snyder, 2017).

According to Steve Wilson, a well-known, licensed NCAA and TBL basketball and lacrosse official and owner of GoGetIt!, a Marketing and Promotions firm based in Boston, MA, “these local boards are not operating or are only providing surface level involvement in the communities like Dorchester and Roxbury. The fact is, the well-established “Old Boys” network is fully engaged in the assignment of Sports Officials (Wilson, 2017). In response, the Salvation Army has partnered with Thomas Leadership Solutions on a Sports Careers Academy. Sumner, stated, “We have to take action to produce more quality coaches and officials necessary to support the growth of sports-based youth development programs necessary to address the growing need.” , which were offered at the Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center in Dorchester, MA, and in association with Steve Wilson, and GoGetIt Enterprises.

The initial SCA program was offered as a prelude to the Chris Pagentine Elite Pro Basketball camp in Hanover, MA. Current and prospective officials were provided instruction in rules, game management, mechanics, association membership, and professionalism. Following the classroom and court instruction the SCA participants served as the officials for the showcase games for men seeking basketball contracts in Europe, Canada, and the new Professional Basketball League. Wilson is the Lead Instructor and believes the partnership with the SA Kroc Community Center can provide the precise training and development necessary to produce top quality officiating professionals to support sports leagues across the region and country.


Snyder, D. (August 1, 2017) Opinion: Only Things Youth Sports Lacking are Officials, The Washington Post. (Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jul/31/youth-sports-have-everything-except-people-who-wan/).

Sumner, B.C. (July 21, 2017) Personal Communication

Wilson, S. (July 7, 2017) Personal Communication.


Dwayne B. Thomas, Ph.D.

"The Difference Between the Impossible and the Possible Lies in a Person's Determination." – Tommy Lasorda

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