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Nationwide referee shortage impacting high school and youth sports

Gary Gittelson, from the San Diego County Football Officials Association said one of the main reasons for the shortage is unruly behavior from parents and fans.

SAN DIEGO — More referees are calling it quits than ever before. This comes as fall sports get underway with the start of the new school year.

Gary Gittelson, member of the San Diego County Football Officials Association, also works high school varsity games, he said the number of officials is down drastically.

"I never thought our numbers would decrease by about half," said Gittelson. "We normally in the past would have at least 40 new members each year, two years ago we had 10 new members. Last year we had 27 new members. You add those two together and we still don’t get to 40."

Gittelson said COVID has had a huge impact, but said, one of the main reasons for the shortage is unruly behavior from parents and fans.

"The un-sportsman like conduct of coaches, as well as some parents put people off and they don’t want to come back, they don’t want to return. They get yelled at during their days at work," added Gittelson. 

Gittelson said that the job is also tough work, "It's far from easy and until you put yourself in the situation you really have no room to criticize those who have the courage, who are putting themselves on the field each and every week so that their sons and daughters can play the game."

According to the National Federation of State High School Association, there has been a loss of about 50,000 referees and umpires nationwide since the 2018-2019 season. That's forced schools to move around their game-day schedules.

"There will definitely be games moved to Thursdays and Saturdays. We simply do not have high school officiating crews to cover all the games on Friday nights," added Gittelson. 

Referees generally make $66 for youth games and as much as $90 for varsity games.

No experience is needed. If you're interested in registering to become an official, click here.

The shortage is affecting all sports.

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