Why the loss?

November 6, 2016

Behind the loss lingers a multitude of reasons. Lewie Curtis, Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Director of Officials, credits age and lack of incoming officials as a possible reason for the shortage.

“I think we are not seeing a lot of young officials getting into officiating, we’re not seeing the younger people taking it up and our population age is creeping upward,” Curtis said. He also cited bad sportsmanship by fans as a potential contributing factor.

“I think that’s been going on forever; for as long as there’s been officials and contests, yelling at the refs has been kind of a normal practice. But maybe [referees] just don’t want to deal with that anymore,” Curtis said.

Another contributing factor may be lack of pay combined with working hours. “It’s hard if you are 30 years old and have two children at home with your wife and you’re gone two or three nights a week. Sometimes people make the decision not to do that,” Curtis said.

It’s a tough job, it’s a thankless job and it doesn’t pay very well, if at all. It can be stressful; there’s a lot of things riding on good officiating. Ultimately, is the effort worth the reward in the end?”

— Garrett Hartwig

Referee and Assistant Executive Secretary and Treasurer at the Iowa City Athletic Officials Association, Joshua Berka, adds that refereeing cannot support a person, “I would say probably point zero-one of officials are where that is their full time vocation, but the rest of us it is an avocation, something that’s done in addition to our full time jobs.”

An additional cause for the decline may be the specialization of referees that is now more common. “You’ll see officials tending to focus on one sport or maybe two whereas in the past it wouldn’t be unusual to have someone officiate three or four different sports,” said John Mathias, Executive Secretary of the Iowa City Athletic Officials Association. Mathias is also a referee and has faced abuse multiple times throughout his career. “I have certainly heard abuse and have taken verbal abuse from fans many times over the years. I am fortunate in that I have never been physically assaulted or have any altercations that led to the level of needing to involve the police,” he said.

Berka brings up a possible cause for the drop off in the past ten years, “There was a brief spike in the number officials back in the late 2000s, during the economic crisis. As people found that it was a way to get involved with the game and make some additional money and then as the economy improved, I think a lot of those folks realized that they didn’t want to continue with officiating,” Berka said, then noted, “Again, because they didn’t want to take the abuse, take that, and so they got out of it.”

Football coach, Garrett Hartwig summed the reasons up, “It’s a tough job, it’s a thankless job and it doesn’t pay very well, if at all. It can be stressful; there’s a lot of things riding on good officiating. Ultimately, is the effort worth the reward in the end? I think that’s what a lot of people are kind of going back to.”

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