Referee shortage in Altus, surrounding districts

Referee shortage in Altus, surrounding districts

ALTUS, OK (KSWO) - A new school year means school sports are back with some fall seasons already underway. But in Altus, a referee shortage is causing problems for the association planning all those middle school and high school games. The number of referees in certain sports went down by half.The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has a few reasons why like more veteran officials retiring, limited availability and a controversial one: unruly coaches and parents.

It's a young or veteran referee's worst fear, chaos on the field with a parent or coach.

Allen Meiers, president of the Altus area Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, said events like these make potential refs turn away from the profession.

"It's gotten worse," Meiers said.

He said when talking with people about becoming a ref, those angry, yelling parents is the first thing they think about.

"He says, I get yelled at enough at work, I'm not going to get yelled at at the gym or the field," Meiers said.

But Meiers said they don't see too many of those problems in the Altus and the surrounding districts they serve.

His pressing issue: getting officials for these upcoming fall season games so these young athletes can get a shot at playing.

"We used to have about 20 for football and now we are down to about ten," Meiers said. "We used to have about 35 for basketball and we're down in the 15, 16, 17 area. We are cut in half."

Aside from the unruly parents, OSSAA said more veterans are retiring and not enough younger people are signing up.

About 3,400 referees work all over Oklahoma. According to OSSAA, about 730 have worked 15 years or more, which makes those refs more likely to retire soon.

"You know people get older, people move," Meiers said. "We are a military base so we have some military officials. Then we don't just get any young people trying to get into the sport."

Meiers said in his local association, they try to help the new recruits with uniforms and studying for the tests applicants have to take. All things to help grow those numbers.

"I tell you what, it's a brotherhood that's very strong, but the brotherhood that's shrinking," Meiers said.

Enrollment to be an official has already started, and the cut-off depends on the sport.

To find out more, head over to the OSSAA website.