The Referee Shortage
By Joe Ulm
Here we are again. Approaching mid-season and experiencing another referee shortage. Except this year is even worse than last year…which was worse than the year before that…which was worse than the year before that. And the issue isn’t specific to PSU or any one club – it’s affecting all clubs. In short, it’s a “club soccer” issue. There is no mystery why this is:
Teenagers have tons of choices for work these days. Very few of those choices require them to take verbal abuse from adults screaming at them from the sidelines. Refereeing youth soccer games does. Almost always. So, fewer and fewer teenagers are choosing to become referees. Even more, fewer parents are encouraging their kids to become referees because they don’t want their sons and daughters taking that kind of abuse. And who can blame them? Yet the sidelines this weekend will still be full of people shouting at the ref, correcting him/her, or complaining about a call loud enough for the referee to hear.
Not surprisingly, many of these same people will be the first to complain when there isn’t a referee for their son/daughter’s game. And my gosh, can you imagine how they’d react if someone shouted at their son or daughter that way? It would be epic, I’m sure.
Crazier yet, the fix for problem isn’t specifically difficult or complex. It’s simply a matter of:
- Changing the culture around referees so they’re respected and appreciated (and stay referees long enough to become highly skilled at their craft)
- Encouraging and incentivizing more people to become referees (parents and kids alike)
That’s it. That’s the fix.
In the end, every spectator is either part of the solution or part of the problem. There is no “in between” on this one. So take a moment and decide which side you’re on. Now. Before you’re caught up in the emotion of the game. Because a bad call will happen. If not this weekend, then next weekend, or the weekend after that. That’s how sports work.
So I’m asking everyone to be part of the solution. Make that choice now, before you’re caught up in the emotion of the game. Make that choice even when the bad call is incredibly bad; even when the call costs our team the game. Let’s be the start of a better culture around referees; let’s be the place every referee wants to referee games. We can do it. We can be that change. Because nothing is beyond us if we stay United.