Nebraska sees rise in high school referees for 2023
NEBRASKA -- In December of 2021, News Channel Nebraska sat down with the Nebraska School Activities Association to discuss the referee shortage that had been hitting all high school sports throughout the state.
Just over a year later, the NSAA is reporting an uptick in officials.
Nate Neuhaus, the supervisor of officials for the NSAA, said one key reason that more Nebraskans are becoming officials is that the NSAA now looks at the long-term picture.
"We have to focus our attention from recruiting to retention. When we do get a new official, whether they are young or old, that we get them through the last two years," he said. "Data across the country shows us that most new officials quit within the first three years."
In 2022, the NSAA has added 100 football officials, 86 volleyball officials and 40 softball officials.
The NSAA has set up new mentorship programs for new officials to network with more experienced officials to get more opportunities to referee games.
Officiating curriculums have also been set up in different high schools throughout the state for students to get hands-on experience and to get certified to referee games at an earlier age than most officials.
In December of 2021, the NSAA reported a 15 to 20% decrease in officials since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neuhaus said that being another year away from the pandemic and these programs have been a driving force in finding new officials.
"The pandemic, like a lot of things in the world, affected officiating like everything else," he said. "We are seeing a rebound, recovery but we have to continue with our initiatives to recruit, train, retain."
First-year officials now also pay a smaller fee in addition to buying the gear needed.
If you're interested in learning more about becoming an official, visit their website.