There is an overwhelming shortage of high school sports officials working across the country. That’s true in Texas, too, where the state’s obsession with football doesn’t stretch far enough to ensure there are people to officiate every game. Now, new findings that have been published by the Dallas Morning News are shining a light on what’s keeping many of those prospective officials away. As it turns out, fans may have a lot to do with it.
As reported by the Morning News, a survey conducted by the Texas Association of Sports Officials found that 80 percent of those who left the profession in 2017 cited verbal abuse as their motivation to leave. That alleged abuse was not broken down among fan abuse, player abuse and coaching abuse, but it still spoke to a reality so troubling that some districts are forcing coaches to adjust their schedules so they can accommodate all games across a three-day slate.
“It’s so easy just to turn on the TV and see NBA players whine to the refs or coaches scream at the officials,” Joel Williams, president of the TASO Dallas chapter, told the Morning News.
Added TASO executive director Michael Fitch (also to the Morning News): “A lot of new officials just give [officiating] up after dealing with their coaches and the parents.”
The move to spread out the schedule of games is being spearheaded in more far-flung Texas cities like Amarillo and Lubbock. Still, with those traditional football hotbeds unable to support a full slate of traditional Friday games, it begs the question of whether other Texas areas will in the future.
For now, the games will go on in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, albeit with teams of officials who are paid as little as $100 for a weekend of work and are often above the age of 60.
If that sounds like a powerful disincentive and questionable growth initiative, you’re not alone in the conclusion.
“I just don’t know the magic pill,” Ty Mitchell, Dallas chapter secretary and an active official, said. “But something needs to happen in order for us to get back on track and still be able to officiate every game as well as we can.”