The numbers from the National Association of Sports Officials speak volumes: About 80 percent of young officials quit after just two years and more than 75 percent of high school officials say "adult behavior" is the main reason for getting out.
"Plus, there's a ripple effect," said the WIAA — the governing body for prep sports in Wisconsin — in a relatively recent op-ed piece. "There are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren't enough younger ones to replace them."
WIAA director of communications Todd Clark told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that many events around the state get rescheduled or canceled because of a lack of people to officiate the contests.
"Parents, not all, are a problem at almost every high school and youth athletic event that I attend," Nicolet High School athletic director Kirk Krychowiak told the Journal Sentinel. "The parents who cheer the right way and have the proper etiquette at games far outweigh the ones that don't, but those that don't tend to be the loudest and most difficult to deal with."
Sports officiating is not easy. There's training involved, long road trips and nobody is getting rich from the work. It's also a craft that can be thankless — many are remembered more for a single call that's thought of as missed than the countless times he or she made the "right" decision.
Unruly comments from the crowd can affect an official trying his or her best to oversee a game. That treatment also leaves an impression with young fans who might otherwise have taken on the responsibility of officiating in the future.
As the winter sports postseason hits its stride, we'll celebrate the performances of young student-athletes. Let's also take the time to thank those who put in the effort to officiate the contests.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor