FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA 21) — Local high school officials are dealing with a pressing issue in Indiana. The IHSAA says there’s a critical shortage of referees due to unruly parents and fans at games.
So much so, their top brass issued this op-ed in January, telling parents to cool it. The message cites a study which claims “more than 75 percent of all high school officials say “adult behavior” is the primary reason they quit. And 80 percent of all young officials hang up their stripes after just two years of whistle blowing. Why? They don’t need your abuse.”
“Every year it just seems to get a, seems to get a little tougher,” said the president of the Northeast Indiana Officials Association, Joe Rudolph.
The op-ed also states that the shortage is so severe in some areas that it has resulted in the cancellation of events, mainly freshman and junior varsity games.
“You know, they’re emotionally invested into it. I get it. It’s just that the referees don’t need to be the target.,” said Rudolph.
One local official from Fort Wayne, Jeff Meeks, says he won’t let the shortage stop him from doing what he loves.
“It’s just, it is really fun. It’s hard to describe the camaraderie you have with your fellow officials and the excitement you have from being out there on the court when the people are just yelling and screaming. It is really awesome,” said Meeks.
In his 19th year as an official, Meeks covers games at the high school and college level. He mainly does basketball, football and volleyball.
He said it surely has become more difficult, and that it took years of officiating before the bashing and yelling from parents and fans stopped bothering him.
He added that he understands why younger officials decide to walk away from it, but he won’t ever leave the game.
“It’s just cause I love it that much. I mean, I’m going to go as long as my body will allow me to do it,” said Meeks.
Meeks says he’s in line to officiate during the state tournament this year, which he called a rare opportunity that he’s excited for.
Anyone interested in becoming a high school official can visit the official’s section on the IHSAA’s website.