The laws of supply and demand also apply to referees. Due to less people willing to do the job, the cost of hiring a ref has skyrocketed.
The laws of supply and demand also apply to referees. Due to less people willing to do the job, the cost of hiring a ref has skyrocketed.

Schools struggle to find high quality referees

Referees. An essential part of almost every single sport. Throughout the history of the SPC, getting high quality refs in a high quantity has not been an issue. But this is starting to change.

The idea that there is a referee shortage is slightly misleading, because it implies that there are fewer referees than before. That is not the case.

“I think we’re all people pleasers, and nobody wants to go to a thankless profession where you really don’t get cheered for doing a good job,” said varsity basketball head coach Greg Guiler. “You only get booed for doing what the crowd believes to be a mediocre job.”

Recently, for various reasons, referees have been less and less willing to show up to certain schools for games. As supply of referees decreases, the price to hire one inversely increases.

“Over the last five years, the payment of the referees has certainly gone up, and that is mainly because in today’s climate, people think they can just treat the refs poorly,” said Athletic Department Director Josh Friesen. “At St. Mark’s, however, we are lucky that referees like to work here because the players are respectful and the parents leave them alone, however the same can’t be said for every school.”

The system of assigning refs is built around “assigners”, who are responsible for making sure they can get a ref for the games of whatever sport they are in charge of.

“We have even had other schools come to us on short notice to try and get assistance from our assigner, so our assigner then would help out and make sure that other school was able to get a referee on time,” Friesen said.

When it comes to the treatment of the ref and simple human nature, home field advantage can have a large impact.

“If there’s a 50-50 call, it might be a tad more likely for the human nature of the official to give the call in favor of the home team just to get a cheer from the crowd because, again, it feels better,” Guiler said. “I don’t sense a lot of them in the SPC. I don’t feel like we host games with bias like that. Teams come here kind of rolling their eyes thinking that they’re going to get a raw deal, and I and I credit our officiating crews that come to do high school games for being very unbiased.”

Outside of home field advantage, simply treating the ref can go a long way.

“The better our kids are on the field, the better we can host them, the more respectful our coaches can be, not only will referees want to come to our school, but they will also be more likely to give us better calls depending on how well we treat them,” Friesen said.

This issue of poor treatment certainly has taken its toll on some of the referees, who are now less likely to show up at certain schools to ref because they know what they must put up with if they show up.

“I think there are schools that don’t necessarily treat the referees as well as we do here because the referees know what they would be getting into,” Friesen said. “So, in turn, some schools can only afford to get the newer, less-experienced refs due to their reputation, an issue which quite frankly we don’t have.

This phenomenon of refs becoming harder and harder to assign and show up to schools is something more recent, and although issues like inflation have certainly caused an influx in the prices of refs, that is not the sole reason.

“A lot of factors can come into play, but I would say that many people recently feel like they are entitled to their own opinion, and I am not sure if that has to do with social media where people can say whatever they want, but this issue has now trickled down to the sidelines, with parents thinking they can say whatever they want,” Friesen said. “Thinking there are no repercussions of acting that way is simply not true, and if you treat referees like that they are not going to want to work.”

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