One of my responsibilities to the Clinton Community School District is to participate on the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA)’s council. This organization supports the boys’ athletic programs across the state of Iowa. The representative council gives input to the IHSAA on policy issues. For example, two years ago, the representative council gave input on the state playoff schedule based on player safety.
At the September 27 meeting this year, a presentation was made on the growing concern about the shortage of officials across the state. An even larger concern was data presented to the representative council on retention of new officials. In 2013, the number of new officials that registered with the IHSAA was 970. After three years, in 2016, only 328 of those 970 new officials were still registered to officiate, a 33.8% retention rate.
This leads to the question, “Why have so many left officiating?” Obviously there are many reasons, but here are some common theories that the IHSAA has collected:
- The shortage of officials overall has pushed young officials into varsity events sooner than ever. The young official is not ready for the intensity of a varsity event.
- The younger generation does not value the profession of officiating as did past generations.
- The increasing number of “club”, AAU, and other organizations are utilizing young officials for their events. Many times these experiences are less structured than school contests and the young official experiences negativity and decides it is not worth it.
What is the IHSAA doing to promote attracting and retaining officials? The organization is sponsoring an AddOne Campaign, in which athletic directors are asked to identify at least one student from high school or college that has the potential to be an official. The IHSAA is also sponsoring a Wrestling Mentoring Program, a first attempt to provide a mentoring program for newer officials.
I believe everyone involved in high school athletics has a responsibility to promote these positive opportunities for our students. If you are aware of a student that has the potential to be a future official, please notify our activities director, Justin Remington. Also, I believe all of us need to model sportsmanship and respect for the tough job that officials have. Improving the environment while young officials develop their skills will help Iowa attract and retain them.