Official shortage threatens High School, Youth sports

NSAA says they’re seeing reducing numbers amongst their officials
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Before a kick off, a first pitch, or even a first tip, sporting events need officials.

Chris Ladwig started officiating when he was in college, and has loved every second of it.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Ladwig. “To me you’ve got the best seat in the house, front row, every night of every game, can’t ask for much better than that.”

Not only do these officials give back to the sports they love, they also become a sort of fraternity.

“It becomes a close knit group, and you gain a lot more friends and you’re able to go do a lot more things with those guys and get to meet other people that you wouldn’t meet just going through college or going through your normal daily lives,” explained Ladwig.

The Nebraska Schools Activities Association recently has seen a decline in the number of officials it has, losing 20% of them from last year.

This has forces some schedule changes, including football games played in the afternoon, and games being played on normal days off.

A big reason these officials are leaving, is due to the treatment they receive from fans, players, and coaches.

“The ticket that we buy does not give us permission to scream at officials, and I think educating people on that, that that’s a real concern why people aren’t officiating anymore, hopefully it opens their eyes up a little bit,” said Jon Dolliver, the Director of Officials for NSAA. “If we would change behaviors at games it might keep people around a little bit longer, and if we can keep them involved in officiating, ultimately it’s about providing opportunities for kids to play.”

To thank the officials for all that they do, the NSAA held an “Officials Appreciation Week”.

“Officials do put in a lot of time,” said Dolliver. “They spend a lot of time on the road, they spend a lot of times, a lot of weeknights away from their families. For us it was a way of just showing, “Hey we do appreciate what you do and the things that you do to provide opportunities for our kids.”

As the NSAA continues to search for new officials, those already taking the field, court, or diamond, want people to know that they’re doing the best they can, to give student-athletes the chance to play the sports they love.

“If we can find ways to recruit the younger kids to work with some of our veteran officials, and let our fans and coaches know that we’re humans and we do make mistakes, but yet we’re out there giving the best we can for our abilities that we have, and so we just gotta keep working and recruiting and have fun with it,” said Ladwig.

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