The San Francisco Section — one of 10 sections that make up the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school athletics — is in desperate need of officials.
With up to 90 officials needed on a busy winter night for high school basketball, and 15 officials needed on any given Friday night for high school football, the section is holding a recruiting fair in the City College of San Francisco gymnasium foyer from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Monday night.
Officials from every sport official association, from basketball and football, to swimming and tennis, will be present.
“What we want is anybody who is interested in officiating, or is officiating currently, to come out and let all those officials associations know who they are, and find out a little bit about what one has to do to officiate,” said Donald Collins, the commissioner of the San Francisco Section and the commissioner of the San Francisco Unified School District Athletic Program. “We’re hoping with all the officiating associations there at the same time, anyone who might be interested in multiple things, can speak to the multiple parties at once.”
Collins has already had to move one football game from a Friday to a Saturday because of a shortage of officials, and he’s not alone. A brief Google search of high school officiating news turns up stories in the last year from Texas, Illinois, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, New York, Iowa and Indiana, to name a few, decrying the overall lack of officials, or lamenting the sharp decrease in their numbers.
One study in Indiana cited a drop of 12 percent from 2007 to 2017 in its total number of registered officials across the seven sports – basketball, baseball, football, soccer, swimming, track and field, and wrestling – that require assigned officials for postseason events.
“The primary reason is that officials are getting older and we’re not being able to replace them with newer officials,” Collins said, adding that the average age of officials is 53. “Part of that is how people treat them … Younger folks aren’t tuning in.”
Most of the journalism done on the subject of official shortages includes the fact that being an umpire, a referee or a judge for high school sports comes with a not insignificant amount of grief from overly-involved (and self-involved) parents.
What those hecklers perhaps don’t realize is that the worse parents and coaches treat officials, the fewer opportunities their children will have to compete, because there won’t be enough officials to go around.
Along with adding officials, Collins is also hoping to spearhead a push to educate parents and coaches to treat those new officials more respectfully. The first step, though, is to bolster the ranks.