Over the past couple of years, the Sac-Joaquin Section has noticed a large shortage of referees within high school athletics, a problem that has affected the entire country.



Due to various factors including the economy and harsh treatment faces by officials, the nation and most especially the SJS has begun experiencing a shortage of referees. The shortage has already, and will continue to, hurt RHS in many ways by potentially making games less fair.

Within the past few years, high school referees across all sports have been in a general decline. According to school, league and section administrators the result has been a corresponding decline in the relative skill level of high school officiating. Though this problem hurts Roseville directly, it also pertains to the Sac-Joaquin Section (SJS), and even the nation as a whole.

This major hole in high school sports can easily be seen by looking at the amount of basketball referees today compared to just five years ago. According to SJS Northern Official Assigner Jim Jorgenson, five years ago there were roughly 400 officials, yet today there are only 320 within the section. Those 320 referees are assigned throughout the section, causing an even greater lack of depth in referees.

For Jorgensen, the continuous decline in referees can be contributed greatly to the economy. As the economy gets better, many referees don’t find it necessary to have multiple jobs.

“In the economy right now, for many people it is better to get another job rather than being a referee,” Jorgensen said.

While the economy may be partially responsible, another significant deciding factor officials face is whether or not the money is worth the harsh treatment from players, parents and spectators. After hearing from various referees, RHS Athletic Director Emily Dodds concluded that a majority of high school officials decide against continuing because of this harassment.

“Nationally seen, the feedback we’re receiving as to why officials aren’t returning is basically just the treatment,” Dodds said. “The parents reactions to referees gets under players’ skin and then players start to react and it gets out of hand.”

Assistant principal Jason Wilson agrees with Dodds, that although referees may be paid for their contributions to high school athletics, to some it doesn’t seem worth it to have to travel and manage being constantly disrespected.

“Pay has something to do with it,” Wilson said. “When asking individuals to provide a service and subject themselves to travel and verbal attacks or abuse with little or no support much of the time, many are opting out.”

For many teams within the SJS, each year is continuously getting more difficult to provide officials for games, much less experienced ones. According to Wilson, losing roughly 100 referees across most sports makes each season more and more difficult to retain and recruit skilled referees.

Girls varsity soccer, water polo, and swim coach Paul Stewart has been directly impacted by this problem, and believes that it could have monumental effects towards making games more unsafe.

“We’re having to use the less experienced refs which produces sloppy and risky games ,” Stewart said. “This could cause more injuries from hacking which encourages people to get more vocal and angrier. If coaches, players and fans kept their composure during games, we wouldn’t have as much of a problem.”

Sophomore Macie Shaffer has experienced first hand how the shortages of referees can impact individual games, through her JV basketball games. During one game only one referee was available to officiate, causing an unnecessary amount of uncalled fouls.

“The game got really frustrating because there was only one ref,” Shaffer said. “He couldn’t see everything and there were a lot of fouls that weren’t called and if there was a second ref I’m sure that would have changed the game.”