COLORADO SPRINGS — As high school football season kicks off, some districts are dealing with a referee shortage.
"It is the worst it's been. It was bad before the pandemic but now the pandemic is here too," said Andy Parks, Lead Athletic Director for Academy School District 20 and Rampart High School Athletic Director.
Parks says it's an issue that is impacting games.
"In Colorado Springs, we have four major leagues with different schools in each league. There are about forty schools in the area of Colorado Springs, and we have different days that we are able to schedule within our league so that we can have officials who can cover those. Different leagues will take different days of the week so we have enough officials to cover those games," said Parks. "Everyone talks about Friday Night Lights but we have some schools that aren't able to play on Frida nights because there aren't officials available. Right now they can cover ten games within our area on a Friday night so sometimes we have to play Saturday mornings, afternoons, or Thursdays."
While there are numerous reasons for the shortage, COVID-19 is one of the biggest concerns.
"They don't want to work games, they are nervous, scared to be in the environment. You may have five or six hundred people at a basketball game for instance that is inside and dealing with kids up close. They are nervous for their own health," said Parks.
A lack of Sportsmanship also contributing to the issue.
"We have some really big issues to kind of get figured as well in the sportsmanship side of things. In the treatment of our officials that we need to impact on the school level and make sure our communities treat officials in the respect they deserve. I'm proud to work at Rampart because I think we do a good job at that, we aren't perfect by any stretch, but we need to make sure even statewide officials are honored and respected."
If the shortage continues, Parks says it could impact spring sports, particularly baseball. The district is working on ways to help ease the shortage so that doesn't happen.
"This right here says get involved, and on the back has a couple of bar codes that you can shoot and it will take you through the process of becoming an official. I'm using these at games to hand out to people who think they could do a better job than the officials," said Parks. "Some of our high schools in town are developing officiating classes through their PE department."
Parks says there are benefits to becoming a game official.
"What we see in our official group is that many of them are past athletes. They were football players in high school and loved the environment, crowds, and Friday Night Lights. They wanted to get a little bit of that back for themselves. We also see how this benefits kids, they derive benefits themselves," said Parks.
Anyone interested in becoming an official can visit this website.