INDIANAPOLIS —The National Officials Recruitment Campaign has proven effective in heightening awareness of the country’s shortage of licensed officials since being introduced by the National Federation of State High School Associations in April.
Incorporating a year-long social media campaign and a website (www.HighSchoolOfficials.com) as well as a poster titled “The Final Whistle? – Not So Fast,” the campaign has earned more than 1.7 million unique impressions (number of views via email, Facebook or Twitter) and received more than 1,200 requests from individuals for more information about becoming an official. In helping the campaign become more effective, athletic directors and coaches can post or repost each NFHS message on Facebook or Twitter with #BecomeAnOfficial.
Individuals interested in becoming an official can visit www.HighSchoolOfficials.com. Submitted information is directed to the applicable state high school association, which then provides prospective officials the necessary steps to begin officiating in his or her state.
“As we met at the 98th annual summer meeting in Providence with our member executive directors, the group had really positive feedback on the campaign as a whole,” NFHS Executive Director Bob Gardner said.
“A few state associations had really good success. To highlight, New York, in particular, had 217 submissions.”
From the onset, the National Officials Recruitment Campaign has been aimed at younger individuals. Utilizing social media as its primary medium, the campaign has targeted college students who are former high school athletes and involved with intramural and recreational programs.
“We felt like these programs use other college students to referee their games and make a little money,” Gardner said. “This just seemed natural since this group of students were already officiating. Why wouldn’t they want to get their license and work some high school or junior high events to make a little more money?”
The campaign relaunched last month for the new school year and did so with an expanded focus from college students to those at the high school ranks. Gardner said the hope is that athletic directors can identify upperclassmen who have an interest in continuing their relationship with athletics when their playing days are over.
“We want to plant that seed and show that this is a way to stay involved and give back to your communities,” Gardner said.
In July, the Zanesville Times Recorder reported Zanesville High School is looking to ease the officials shortage by offering an elective course in officiating. The course will be instructed by licensed official Steve Shroyer, who has experience in baseball, basketball and football.
Gardner said the shortage issue first presented itself during meetings last fall. The consistent message from state associations was that they were at a “critical stage.”
“Everywhere that we went, everybody reported a decline in officials,” Gardner said. “In some states, it had reached a critical stage that some states didn’t have enough officials to cover all of the games if all of the teams played at the same time. They were having to go through the experience of having some teams shift games because there just wasn’t enough officials.”
Although the initial efforts have been successful, Gardner and NFHS Director of Sports and Officials Theresia Wynns believe that any concern will only be alleviated only when there’s enough officials to cover games across every state.
“The National Officials Recruitment Campaign evolved from the need to add additional officials because numbers were becoming depleted,” Wynns said. “Individuals are leaving the ranks of officiating for various reasons. The campaign hopes to seek out individuals who have a strong knowledge about the role.”
The NFHS Learning Center provides licensed officials with additional resources to increase their interest and knowledge. Among the 50-plus courses found at www.NFHSLearn.comare six sport-specific courses regarding basketball, football, soccer, softball, swimming/diving and volleyball.
“It is our desire to have individuals move into the officiating ranks based on the process that each state has set forth for new members,” Wynns said. “We want these new officials to involve themselves in training by taking sport-specific courses developed by the NFHS Learning Center, be assigned a mentor who will assist him/her in the learning and training process, be available to answer questions, offer feedback from observing different officiating situations, assist with establishing an appropriate schedule and be available to the inexperienced official to make suggestions and critique.”