Referee shortage impacts local high school sports


HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. (KIEM) – As high school sports are returning to action, organizers are finding that the return to play is being complicated by a decreasing number of referees.

Organizers are scrambling to overcome this growing shortage that is plaguing the North Coast. Jan Henry, assignor of officials for volleyball and softball, described the current predicament.

“We are finding ourselves in a situation where we can barely cover all the games out there,” Henry said.

Chris Petersen, assignor of officials for football, says this problem is not isolated to the Humboldt-Del Norte League.

“It is a national problem, quite honestly, and it affects us here on the North Coast as well,” Petersen said. “The amount of games hasn’t changed.”

That means officials are now working two games a night instead of one.

“You just don’t have bodies,” Petersen said. “Then you start having four officials instead of five, JV games have three instead of four. It becomes a safety factor.”

To combat this growing issue, league officials decided it best to move one Friday night football game to Saturday. That allows more time for referees to cover more ground.

“We have to do what we have to do,” Henry said. “The high schools are going to have games and we have to be there to officiate those games.”

But this problem stems from a much larger one: unsportsmanlike behavior from fans.

“That is not what officiating is about,” Petersen said. “There is more to it than that, but it is getting past that stigma.”

Henry says it is hard to find recruits who have a personality that can withstand such intense criticism.

“We need to get the word out that it is very rewarding,” Petersen said. “You just have to get through the negatives, but in my opinion, the positives far outweigh it.”