Referee shortage forcing some schools to postpone games

Grass Lake already postponed Friday’s game
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:36 PM EDT
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GRASS LAKE, Mich. (WILX) - Schools are having to adjust their athletic schedules because they don’t have enough officials. Grass Lake already moved its varsity football game from Friday to Saturday because it couldn’t find enough referees.

“We can’t have kids out there playing without officials,” said Brian Zalud, Grass Lake Athletic Director.

Zalud made the decision to move the game last week, and he isn’t the only one. Potterville didn’t play last Friday because their opponent, Mount Clemens, couldn’t find referees.

“It’s going to become a bigger and bigger issue as more and more officials start to retire. We’re going to have as many if not more games because many schools are adding sports,” said Zalud.

Zalud also had to postpone Grass Lake’s homecoming game in 2019. The MHSAA said the number of certified officials dropped in many sports that year. On top of that, there was another huge drop in certifications last school year.

“A lot of older referees weren’t willing to put their health at risk when you didn’t really know what the climate is,” said Bill DeFrance, MHSAA Soccer Referee.

DeFrance has been a soccer referee in Michigan for 35 years, and he’s been busy.

“There are often some games that we have to have limited coverage. Where in a normal year for a varsity game, you have three refs. This year typically it’s two referees,” said DeFrance.

DeFrance said he thinks verbal harassment towards refs over the years is another reason why people aren’t signing up.

But he noticed that tone is different this year.

“I’ve seen the appreciation for referees go up when everybody knows it’s tough to come out and officiate the kids’ games,” said DeFrance.

Zalud said he’s trying to make sure the games continue to go on.

“The conference has raised pay, we’ve tried different things. We’re going to adjust our baseball schedule in the spring a little bit to maybe reduce the need of officials,” said Zalud

If you’re interested in officiating a sport, just contact your local athletic director.

You can learn more about how to become certified by MHSAA AT THIS LINK.

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