CHAPEL HILL, NC - It is no secret. There is a shortage of officials for amateur contests across our country. That shortage continues to grow and is causing significant challenges for high school athletics in the United States. North Carolina is not immune to this shortage and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) is working diligently to address concerns and issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of officials.
This past summer, the NCHSAA commissioned a special Ad Hoc Committee on Officiating and tasked them with generating a report and recommendations for the Board of Directors to plot a pathway forward to address critical issues in officiating.
Steve Schwartz, chairperson of the Officiating Ad Hoc Committee tasked with studying the issues surrounding recruitment and retention of officials in North Carolina shared, “Our center of work was to study the officiating experience in North Carolina. Over 3100 officials, across all sports, shared their honest feelings in a survey about pay, sportsmanship, safety, satisfaction, and the level of support they feel from schools and the NCHSAA. That data told us a story that led to several major recommendations that, if adopted, will improve life for all officials in the state.”
Schwartz and his committee recently presented their findings to the NCHSAA’s Review & Officiating Subcommittee of the Board of Directors. The results of their intensive study were alarming. The Review & Officiating Committee had several hours of candid discussion with the members of the committee as both groups look to chart a course forward that will significantly improve the officiating experience for officials at NCHSAA Member Schools.
The committee generated a report based on a survey that was sent to the NCHSAA’s more than 7,400 officials. The survey generated a 42% response rate, and the results were clear. There is much work to be done across our state to address the underlying problems that are driving a shortage of officials.
Key highlights from the Ad Hoc Committee on Officiating’s survey findings
- Poor Sportsmanship is the #1 reason officials will leave the officiating ranks
- 63% of those surveyed indicated that bad behavior by fans coaches and players make officiating no longer rewarding.
- 66% of all surveyed believe that spectator behavior is worse than it has ever been. Only 3% feel that it is better.
- Low pay is the second leading issue driving officials out of the job
- 51% of those surveyed believe that the rate of pay does not reach the proper level.
- Average age of officials is continuing to rise
- 77% of those surveyed are over the age of 45
- 51% were over the age of 55
- More than half of current NCHSAA officials have considered quitting in the last two years
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said, “We hear our officials loudly and clearly. Bad behavior, particularly by fans, at high school contests must stop. The data from this survey of officials is alarming as it shows how close we are to a tremendous problem in finding qualified officials for contests at our schools.”
Tucker added, “Our Board of Directors is committed to thoroughly reviewing the findings of this committee, generating a game plan and timeline to address these issues, and continuing this conversation with officials from across the state. Our goal is making substantive changes, both near-term and long-term, to improve the conditions and experiences officials are facing in our schools and at our contests.”
Schwartz noted, “As the Board spends the next few weeks reviewing our proposal in anticipation of releasing their plan, we are hopeful the NCHSAA will make a significant commitment to the entire officiating program of North Carolina to stem our ongoing issues of the retention of current officials and the recruitment of new ones so high school athletics remains vibrant in our state.”
The NCHSAA Board of Directors is scheduled for their Winter Meeting November 29 through December 1. The NCHSAA plans to provide the full report generated by the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Officiating to the membership. The Association will also provide a timeline of implementations for many of the recommendations provided by the group.