BRISTOL, Tenn. – Beginning this fall, the Division II Collegiate Commissioners Association (D2CCA) and Division II Athletic Directors Association (D2ADA) partnered to launch the Collegiate Player-to-Ref program (#P2R), with a goal of recruiting student-athletes to become officials after the conclusion of their playing career. The joint effort has a goal of addressing a nationwide shortage of officials across all sports.
Based on a survey by the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), the average age of sports officials has steadily increased over the past four decades, with an all-time high of 53 in 2017. In the 1970s, the average age of a starting official was 19 – compared with 47 in 2017. Across the country, and in all sports, organizations at the youth and high school level are being forced to alter schedules and make other arrangements as a result of the shortage.
Throughout the fall, King University has invited local high school and college sports officials to speak with current student-athletes about the benefits of becoming a sports official after their playing careers end.
"The evidence clearly shows that an officiating crisis exists in the United States," said D2ADA board member and King director of athletics David Hicks. "We are making an intentional effort to partner with the D2ADA and D2CCA in the PTR campaign, encouraging our student-athletes to get involved with officiating after their playing careers."
Current officials who spoke with King student-athletes this fall included
- Randy Ramseyer, a Conference Carolinas soccer official and long-time high school basketball official
- Keith Murless, a Conference Carolinas volleyball official, as well as AVP and FIVB Beach Volleyball official
- Will Little, a current Major League Baseball umpire who umpired the 2016 and 2019 National League Wild Card games
- Danny Williams, a Conference Carolinas softball umpire
"There is a great need for young officials to get involved and find the great fun a person can have being a sports official," said Major League Baseball umpire Will Little. "While we have great systems that focus in developing players of sports at youth levels and up, we really need to also focus on creating systems and the development of officials to keep pace as well. Hopefully bringing awareness to these problems will accelerate interest and opportunities for those who wish to explore officiating at a young age."
The 2017 NASO survey indicated that fan behavior and poor public perception was a primary reason for the decline in officiating numbers, specifically the number of new, young officials entering the profession. One of the primary messages of the #P2R program is that officiating provides student-athletes with a way to stay connected with the game, as well as a way to give back to the game they've played for most of their lives.
"Officiating is a great way to develop communication, maturity, patience, and conflict management skills that are critical to being successful in the more important game, LIFE," Little continued. "It's also a great way to make a little extra money, meet a lot of great people, and have fun all along the way!"
King Athletics is committed to doing its part to combat the lack of young people joining the officiating ranks, by both raising awareness of the problem and making known the benefits of becoming an official.
"Through our efforts at King, and efforts associated with the P2R program nationwide, I hope we can help young people not only see the benefits of becoming an official but improve the public perception of officials in general," said Hicks. "While officials are not perfect, they show up night after night and strive to provide a fair environment for competition. Without officials, competitions can't occur."
Anyone interested in becoming a sports official is encouraged to contact their state high school sports association. A list of all associations can be found here.
For more information on becoming a Conference Carolinas official, click here.