Michigan, along with the rest of the country, was already facing a shortage of high school sports officials before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the last 11 months could exacerbate the problem.
“In a typical year we have about 200 officials. This year we’re down to about 150. So we’ve lost about 25 percent of the officials,” Rob Stanaway, vice president of the Capital Area Official Association in mid-Michigan, told the Lansing NBC affiliate.
And the problem could get worse.
“Previous years we’d have two games per week, now they’re playing three,” Stanaway said. “That increases the amount of games we have to cover in a shorter period of time with fewer officials.”
Waverly athletic director Scott Casteele said there are multiple factors impacting officiating in the area.
“It isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone,” Casteele said. “It’s a nice payday for the officials, but not a lot of legs left at the end of those days. And our population is getting older so that doesn’t make it any easier.”
Mentorship is also suffering, as officials with less experience aren’t able to meet with more experienced officials.
“We’re just not able to get the amount of training for them that they really need,” Stanaway said.