This isn't hyperbole anymore

For the last few years, you have heard many of us repeatedly say there is a shortage of officials and referees for Maine sports at the high school and middle school level. The nightmare scenario we tried warning you about is now here.

Speculation about the shortage solves nothing 

Many people automatically want to point the finger at unruly parents, coaches, or athletes for the declining number of officials across a majority of sports in Maine. To me that is misguided in a lot of ways. There are several factors that are playing into the shortage of referees. Once upon a time the officiating boards were filled with people who worked in schools and education. Today, there are very few people who work at schools that are officiating. We aren't sure why that has flipped. Some point to the schools or higher powers that made it impossible for people to officiate games while working in education.

Many soccer officials are working at east 10 games per week. Do the math

The soccer season is reaching the middle point and teams are now eyeing the playoffs. A great number of middle school games across the state often have just one official working their games. This isn't a major problem if the official is in decent physical shape, but it becomes a problem when an official is working their eighth game of the week and six of them have been alone. The major problem developing is that varsity level games are now starting to see one official at games. This is not fair to anyone. The teams, coaches, and officials.

No officials will mean no games. That's not right for the kids 

We need people to join boards and this needs to be solved sooner than later. Much like "regular” jobs, many boards across the state are seeing people retire. A problem that we saw coming many years ago, but it seems that nobody was serious about recruiting for the future. Anytime someone new joins a board they are a hero in the eyes of many veteran officials who thank them for easing the burden. We try our best to help guide them and bring them up to speed as quickly as possible. It's not fair to the new official when we have to put them in a situation, they may not be comfortable with. First year officials are having to cover varsity level games. This is a massive disservice to the officials and the teams. Officiating is like anything else in life, you learn a little more each year that is beyond the rule book. New officials need time to grow, and they do not have that anymore.

I don't have the solution, just the platform to say now is the time

I do not have the magical answer as to how we solve this problem. This is just a service to let the public know, our doomsday is knocking on the door. As much as we love going out and working the games so that the athletes can have the experience, some of us are bordering on being overworked. The student-athletes deserve to have physically and mentally fresh officials. We can't guarantee they will always get that now. It's time we got serious about solving this problem rather than pointing fingers. All sports across Maine need new officials. Talk to your athletic director today and ask to be pointed in the right direction.

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