A shortage of officials is practically a constant nationwide, but the lack of qualified referees are particularly critical in some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, none more pressing than Houston.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Association of Sports Officials is on the verge of a critical shortage of officials, with the Houston chapter in particularly dire straights. Part of that shortage is due to the number of events it oversees, due to its enormous geographic spread; the region spreads from Houston in far East Texas, to the South Gulf Coast, including Victoria and Port Arthur, a stretch that is larger than Samoa and Luxembourg combined.
Yet the other side of the shortage is how it has been driven by an overwhelming shortage of qualified officials.
Eric Dumatrait, official and crew chief with the Houston chapter of TASO, said the branch of the organization needs approximately 1,500 referees to respond to that demand. Even after a recent officials drive, the Houston chapter has roughly 1,200 officials to work 12,000 events. Simple math indicates that’s 100 events per official, and that would only work if all those officials were qualified to serve in each sport, which obviously isn’t the case.
“The retention rate is, on average, less than 50 percent,” Dumatrait told the Chronicle. “Last year, we were at 60, which is good. We believe the retention rate is a reflection on our training. If we can get them set off on the right foot, not be sensitive to coaches and parents, we believe they’ll be back.
“Right now, I’m sitting at about 80 or 90 new officials. If we get another 100, we’ll be happy. We’ll still fall short of our goal, but that’s probably best-case. If I could get 150 between now and then, it will be a whole lot better.”
That may be a pipe dream, just as it would be in a number of districts across the country. If the new officials don’t come, it may be just a matter of time before contests have to be postponed or competed without certified refs.