Referee shortage impacts sports scheduling

Along with nearby highschools, Marshall has faced a shortage of officials to work at sporting events.

According to the Director of Student Activities, Joseph Swarm, many associations have said the reason for the shortage is the treatment referees sometimes receive from spectators, coaches and players for little pay.

“It’s unfortunate because people watch college and professional contests and think it is okay to treat them poorly,” Swarm said. “It is never okay to treat people like this, and worse at the high school level, because they are professionals in other fields essentially donating their time to run high school contests.”

Swarm said that in previous years, officials used to choose to work at Marshall. Since last year, this hasn’t been the case.

“Unfortunately, we lost our manners and the strong sportsmanship reputation we built over the years,” Swarm said. “We forgot how to have fun and cheer for our athletes. I think when the spectators are loud and cheering on their own classmates competing, it is an incredible atmosphere.”

While Swarm doesn’t believe the shortage has impacted the outcome of the games played, he said the scheduling problem with referees is his greatest concern.

“We have already received a long list of basketball dates the officials have asked us to avoid,” Swarm said. “I think due to the volume of basketball games, it will be tough to cover everything. We are constantly preaching good spectator behavior here because officials pick games to cover and can opt away from schools with issues. In turn, we would receive lower quality officials willing to work our contests.”

In order to improve reputation, Swarm said students should give grace towards officials.

“We need to be more lenient knowing the men and women calling the contests are not picking a side and there are always questionable calls, there always have been,” Swarm said.

Varsity volleyball head coach and math teacher Michael Carroll said he has not found the shortage to affect the outcomes at games.

“In any given year you have your group of referees that have been doing well and know what they’re doing, but you’re always going to have the new ones,” Carroll said.

During district playoffs each year, there are normally line judges. However, there are none during the regular season.

“Some other districts I know they are occasionally able to get line judges more frequently, but we’ve always just had them only in the playoffs,” Carroll said.

While he said he thinks it could be beneficial, Carroll said he doesn’t find line judges to be the main priority, especially with a struggle to find referees.

“If we’re already struggling to find referees during the regular season, having line judges might be pretty tough to do,” Carroll said.

Carroll notes the challenges that come with reffing a highschool game.

“It’s a position especially in volleyball, where the referees are so close to the fans and they are going to constantly hear from them,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he understands the commitment that comes with reffing.

“It’s a stressful job,” he said. “To do it and not get paid a lot of money is a tough thing to ask people.”

Football official Bob Anderson shared his personal experience as a referee.

“I do it because I love it,” Anderson said. “I’ve been [reffing] for 18 years now.”

Anderson said he believes audience behavior is a contributing factor to the shortage.

“A lot of it is sportsmanship from the players, coaches, fans and the whole nine yards,” he said.

According to Anderson, being understanding towards officials should be a priority.

“This also does take a little bit more time and a lot of people realize to do it, and to come out here and do what we do,” he said.

Anderson said in contrast to the time-consuming responsibilities of being an official, people have to find joy in reffing.

“Especially if you have a family,” he said. “I don’t have kids. A lot of these guys who ref are married and have kids. I don’t really know how they do it.”

Volleyball official Dvilyaun Deve said some referees may find the job physically tiring.

“A lot of referees ref multiple games. Some support multiple teams, so they’ll do basketball and volleyball,” Deve said. “A lot of times they get burnt out.”

Deve also mentions parents being a factor.

“At some events, some of the parents are sort of aggressive. Sometimes you don’t want to deal with that,” Deve said. “They’re excited about their kids, but they beat up on the refs.”

Despite the challenges of reffing, Deve said she enjoys her job because she played volleyball growing up.

“I’m not really playing anymore, but [reffing] still allows me to go to the games and different areas,” Deve said. “I live in Prince George’s County, so I drive all the way out to Virginia and get to watch a totally different set of teams that I normally wouldn’t see.”

Both officials said despite refereeing being a difficult job, they do it because they enjoy it.

“You have to have the right attitude,” Anderson said.

Swarm said he has seen better crowd behavior and said he hopes for the positivity to continue to increase.

“I have been very impressed with the Statesmen student sections at games this year,” Swarm said. “I hope our student leaders continue the high expectations in the stands, cheer hard and loudly for their classmates working hard.”