Oshkosh West High School activities director Brad Jodarski has noticed a trend in sporting events lately, and he’s not so fond of it.
When planning for sporting events, it’s becoming more difficult to find officials to work, particularly for freshman and junior varsity teams.
“Any time you have a cancellation, it’s kind of a scramble, especially in the spring, to find officials who are available to work,” he said.
He’s not the only one worried.
Bob Fletcher, treasurer for the Fox Cities Officials Association and a high school and college referee for 33 years, is holding an informational meeting to encourage people to become registered sports officials at 6:30 p.m., July 20, in room 128 of Neenah High School.
“In the state of Wisconsin right now, the median age of football officials is in their late 50s,” Fletcher said. “I happen to be 63 … and we’re considered a young crew.”
But it’s not just football. Fletcher said high school sports have seen a decline in officials for a while, and in five or so years when current ones retire, he’s not sure who will be around to replace them.
Anyone, male or female, can be a sports official. Fletcher said the only requirements are to register with the WIAA for the sports they’re interested in officiating. There is a fee for each sport and an open-book test required every year to remain registered.
Representatives from the WIAA, sports equipment companies and assigners — who give sports officials their games — will be at the meeting July 20 to answer questions and get people started in the enrollment process.
Fletcher said the sports equipment companies will be offering a discount on their equipment to any new official who signs up and orders equipment that night.
Jodarski said he hopes holding the meeting at this time of year will bring more officials in for the upcoming school year, or at the very least, the 2016-17 year.
If there isn’t an official, Jodarski said they have to reschedule games. This can be difficult for the parents, athletes and coaches, and if they’re outside games, it is even more so. Fortunately, they haven’t made it to that point yet, but there have been some close calls.
“There are some days when you go right up to the last minute trying to find an official,” he said.
He worries in the future it may be even more difficult, because most of the officials are close to retirement age.
Jodarski said he was a high school baseball umpire after graduating college, and in addition to the extra money he made doing it, he found it a good way to stay connected and give back to the community.
“A lot of us participate in high school sports during our high school years,” Jodarski said. “So it’s a great way to give back and ensure the next group of students has the opportunity to compete like we did.”
Reach Katy Macek at 920-426-6689 or email@example.com; on Twitter @KatherineMacek.