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ATHLETICS: Key component facing shortage

It is great to see high school athletes back in action the way it should be this fall. Last year at this time, we all remember, how touch-and-go every athletic event was due to the pandemic.

This year is far from perfect, but it has produced some fantastic games and individual performances. But throughout all this, there is a looming problem that is beginning to impact schedules and events.

Who wants to referee?

In an OBSERVER article earlier this week, Section 6 Executive Director Mark DeFilippo notes there is “a huge shortage” of officials throughout the region, state and nation. Some of the problem, he surmises, is due to COVID-19. Another may be longtime referees just aging out.

One other unspoken problem, unfortunately, can revolve around the fans in attendance of local contests. Officials for any sporting event can often be showered with boos or cat calls once a questionable decision is made. Who wants that aggravation?

Getting new blood to participate brings no easy solution. “We haven’t found a good way to get people interested in officiating. We have tried waiving dues fees, raising the amount paid to modified and (junior varsity) level refs,” DeFilippo said. “We’ve tried advertising, encouraging high school and college athletes. If anyone can find the answer, we would be willing to listen. Unfortunately, as I stated, this is not a Western New York problem, this is a national problem.”

Sports are vital to our youth and communities. Those games, moving forward, may be in jeopardy if the pool of officials continues to dwindle.

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