Women's Officials:  The Future of Women as Referees

Women's Officials: The Future of Women as Referees

Women’s Officials:  The Future of Women as Referees

As women referees already know there is a nationwide shortage of referees for high school and youth sports.  The shortage of women referees is requiring cancellation of games in all sports and across the country.

A 2017 survey from the National Association of Sports Officials asked its membership who is causing the biggest problem in sportsmanship.  Parents topped the list at 40% and coaches followed at 30%.  In addition another survey indicates that adult behavior is the reason more than 75% of all high school referees quit.  The same report states that 80% of new officials stop after two years.  

A US Bureau of Labor Statics reports that job opportunities for referees and female referees will grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029.   Opportunities will be realized for the growing need for female officials and there are growing initiatives around the country and across all sports where female officials are needed and to help female officials feel appreciated which ultimately could help them stay in the world of officiating.  Simple things such as providing hospitality for female officials, greeting the female officials when they arrive at the school or field, locker rooms for female officials and are female officials paid in a timely manner.  Another initiative that could prove to be very helpful is to enforce spectator behavior by removing fans that abuse female officials.   The National Federation of State High School Associations had launched a program to address bad behavior by parents at sporting events.  The organization has created a video called “The Parent Seat” asking parents to act their age and “stay in your own lane”.  

While parents and spectators need to behave like adults, a survey for the High School Athletic Association Officials Directory states that officials who responded to a survey about assaults throughout their career reported that the most common assailant of referees and female referees, 41% of the time are players, following next at 20% are parents followed by coaches at 19% and fans at 15%.  Assaults by players and coaches should result in suspension or worse depending on the severity of the assault.  

Richard Weissbourd a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education where he co-directs the Making Caring Common Project, which focuses on moral and social development priorities in child raising was asked about the increase in abusive parents at sporting events offered interesting insight.    He states that many time parents are compensating for their own athletic shortcomings.  In addition, there has been a tendency to demean and degrade those who disagree with you and that behavior has become normalized and accepted.   The risk of this behavior is that it sends the wrong message to kids.  As female officials know, parents should model behavior for their kids.  Demeaning and degrading female officials sends all of the wrong messages to kids.  

To grow and retain female referees post Covid, we now have the opportunity to reduce the abuse female referees experience.  Schools, leagues, coaches, parents, associations and athletes should reexamine their thoughts and treatment of female officials.  Covid has changed the way we live.  Revisions should be made to high school leagues to enforce decency and civility toward female officials.  Leagues and associations will no longer exist without female officials to make the call.