Minnesota youth and amateur sports desperately need referees
(FOX 9) – Every youth or amateur sport in Minnesota struggles to find people to umpire or officiate games.
The shortage of referees existed before the pandemic, but since unemployment is so low and there are plenty of job options these days, the shortage has not improved. But as children are about to return to school, leagues are trying to get more people involved.
“It’s noticeable in all sports, at all levels of course,” said Karah Lodge, associate director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. “In 2019 there was obviously a huge drop, and we haven’t seen the rebound from COVID-19 yet.”
The commission hopes to attract more civil servants. He brought several leagues together under the name Play Together MN and they held three recruiting events this year, including an “Officiating Expo” at TCO Stadium in Eagan on Monday.
So what if a league can’t have enough referees? It depends on the sport, but sometimes games have to be rescheduled or canceled, which happened last year.
The statewide shortage has been exacerbated, in part, by violent behavior by parents and coaches, but the leagues told FOX 9 they are working to educate parents and address those incidents as they occur.
Assante Kelton is about to start his third year as a high school basketball umpire, and he said he’s had some extremely positive experiences as a mentor. He went to the expo, hoping to get even more involved, this time as a volleyball referee.
“You know a lot more than anybody else in the gym as an official so often the kids come to you for advice and you can give them that and help them progress and help them progress a bit more. quick,” Kelton said.
He even brought his teenage son to the event so his son could become a referee as well.
Pay is usually between $25 and $75 per game, and there are other perks as well.
“You can be involved in a sport, it’s fun, it’s flexible hours, you can pretty much call the hours you want to work or how many hours you want to work per week or per month,” said Pat Colbert, the assistant executive director of special projects for the USTA Northern.
For some sports, notably football, the shortage is more severe.
Take tennis, for example. Colbert said the USTA Northern has about 30 officials they can currently call on, but would like 60.
“Tennis knowledge is excellent. If not, we’ll train you, and that’s the beauty of it,” Colbert said.
Anyone interested in officiating for baseball, basketball, football, figure skating, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, municipal sports, soccer and futsal, softball, swimming and diving or tennis can find more information by clicking here.