Becoming a sports official is a job that many people would never think about trying these days. But it’s that lack of interest in officiating that is beginning to become a concern for those responsible for finding officials to fill the nearly 120 thousand contests that the WIAA sanctions every school year.
“Northeast Wisconsin and depending on what sport it might be, we’re behind the curve. I like to refer to us guys as assets for the sports, but we’re well depleted.” -Tom Senecal President Green Bay Officials Association
The problem the WIAA is facing is that older officials are retiring at a faster rate than what new officials are getting licensed. The unsportsmanlike behavior from fans and coaches that is making it difficult to retain young officials for more than one or two seasons.
“Our society now has made it somewhat okay to stand up as a parent with your fifth or sixth grader or your three or five year old sitting alongside of you and scream to no end at the officials and use whatever level of profanity that comes to your mind.”
“The berating, negative, and sometimes threatening behavior from coaches and fans is one of the leading causes for officials to hang up their whistles. But, the other one quite frankly is the feeling of no opportunity here.” -Dave Anderson WIAA Executive Director
The increase in sports teams at the high school and youth levels has also grown much quicker than what the current pool of officials can handle. This has led to some games being postponed or cancelled.
“We’re playing games in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh grade. That was unheard of back in the day and they want WIAA licensed officials”, says Senecal. “So eventually our sanctioned games take a back seat to some of these club teams and local outlets that are not WIAA sanctioned. They’re offering a fairly large stipen to attract our officials and eventually there’s a saturation point and we just don’t have anybody.”
There were over 9,300 licensed officials to cover 24 sports across the state for the 2018-2019 school year. Nearly 4,700 of those officials were licensed to basketball comparead to just 590 licensed officials for gymnastics, swimming, and cross-country combined.
“Our track & field and cross-country officials, gymnastics officials, those are sports that could really use some help and infusion of new officials.”
Football and hockey officials are also in high demand across much of the state. And with a high number of officials reaching retirement age, the opportunities to advance to higher levels of officiating are wide open.
“Come give us a hand because I’m here to tell you that it is about as rewarding as an avocation can be to give back”, says Senecal.
For more information on how to become a WIAA official follow this link: Become a WIAA official