HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new week of school football will be kicking off over the next few days, and it’s not just players suiting up but referees too.
On Saturday, Oct. 7, the Kalani and Kalaheo game was canceled due to no referees. Turns out that was a scheduling error. But there is a growing concern about a critical shortage of officials and not just for football.
The head of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association said there are many contributing factors when it comes to a shortage of referees and umpires.
“It’s one of the most thankless and difficult jobs there is. You’ve seen it. They take abuse,” said HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun. “They are out there and they try to be fair. They try to do their best. These are not professional officials their people that have 9 to 5 jobs or retired, and they come back and they try to give back to the community.”
The coordinator for football officials here in Hawaii said the National Federation of State High School Associations has been lobbying hard for both better pay for officials and better behavior and he believes it’s helping.
“So it seems because of the shortage. These coaches are starting to get a better feel for the need for officials and that’s creating a better working environment,” said HHSAA Football Officials Coordinator Matt Sumstine.
Chun said officials make between $40 and $120 per game depending on the sport. Most doing it not for the money but for the kids and the love of the games. But that love has an an expiration date.
Most of the officials working football games have been at it 25 to 30 years.
“I think some even longer than that,” said Chun. “And the scary part is if these guys ever decide to retire, and they probably should retire because it takes a lot of effort takes up a lot of time and time away from their families. We’re in a lot of trouble we’re gonna be in a lot of trouble.”
Like many other organizations the HHSAA is dealing with a critical worker shortage and are constantly in recruiting mode.
Sumstine said he’d like to see the beginning of a developmental program for officials in all sports.
“I really feel we need to do is be aware of the opportunities,” said Sumstine. “Student athletes that they go on to play in college and they have an opportunity to stay involved in the sport for as long as they can financially we’d like to see them out there.”
“There’s not too many young kids to come back out to college and do it,” said Chun. “Even when they do they call us after one or two years and say they can’t do it anymore because it’s not worth it there’s too much abuse going on.”
And to those parents who can’t help but voicing their displeasure, Chun said, “give it a shot.”
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“It’s a great way to make extra money but it’s also it’s so important for our community,” said Chun. “Because if we don’t keep it going and rebuild the allotment that we have we’re gonna be in trouble in high school sports.”