KSHSAA officials director, Kansas sports official address ref shortage

The referee shortage is felt across Kansas and the U.S.
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 11:53 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The referee shortage, especially at the high school level is felt across the country. In Kansas, the new man in charge of trying to recruit officials for high school sports is working to overcome that challenge.

Referees have a tough job on the field and with the challenge they face in being in the right places at the right times to make the best judgements they can, comes high levels of scrutiny, often with verbal abuse.

“We are the people they are allowed to yell at,” Kansas sports official Zachary Shanline summarized of what it can be like to be a referee.

Disrespect from the stands and even the sidelines pushes experienced officials out. But the situation can be worse for new officials.

“In those first two years, the abuse is usually the most because a lot of the fans and spectators see us as, ‘We’re the young kids, we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re not smart, we’re not experienced,’” Shanline said.

Many young officials quit early and don’t come back, he said.

“Those spectators getting after those first one, two, three-year officials, that makes them want to quit,” Shanline said.

So, how do we solve this problem?

“I think sometimes parents my be living themselves through their kids and saying, ‘You need to get this scholarship or do whatever,’ KSHSAA Director of Officials Scott Goodheart said. “Well, let’s just put that aside and make it fun and enjoyable.”

Goodheart said his goal is to recruit new officials. He said that effort starts with gauging interest from young adult athletes or simply finding those who have a desire to officiate games. An online program called RefReps simplifies the process to become a ref. But to keep officials already in place, Goodheart said there’s something fans need to keep in mind.

“[Referees are] making the best judgment call they can at the time of the play and more times than not, they’re right,” he said.