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Minnesota varsity basketball game postponed due to 'lack of refs'

A key factor in the referee shortage is believed to be due to disruptive parents and fans.
ref shortage

A shortage of high school sports officials in Minnesota caused a postponement of a boys' basketball game that was scheduled to take place Tuesday night between Mora and Zimmerman. 

"Tonight’s Boys’ Basketball game vs. Mora has been postponed because there aren’t enough refs to cover the game," a tweet from Zimmerman High School Activities reads. "Parents and Fans, please remember to be kind to refs. No refs, no game."

"We have had to move games due to not having officials," said Jaime Hilyar, activities director at Zimmerman H.S., in an email to Bring Me The News

"In my experience it's been more common in soccer, softball, and baseball. This is the first time in my time being at Zimmerman that we've had to move a basketball game due to not having officials." 

The games (junior varsity and C-squad in addition to varsity) have been rescheduled for Feb. 6. 

The referee shortage

There are approximately 6,200 certified athletic officials in Minnesota. The declining numbers are an issue, with Hutchinson High School Activities Director Thayne Johnson telling KARE 11 earlier this month that "it's getting to be a serious problem," especially for schools in greater Minnesota. 

Matt Marek, a basketball official for the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), tells BMTN he can recall a "few tightly packed nights" last year "where several games were rescheduled or played earlier than normal to make up for lack of officials."

"As an official, I get about 3-4 emails ahead of really busy nights asking to honor assignments or even help find a guy or two," Marek said. 

Hutchinson recently launched an officiating course for students in grades 9-12, similar to what St. Thomas Academy and Dassel-Cokato have offered students, KARE 11 notes. 

Minnesota isn't alone in the shortage. It's a problem impacting most of the country.

“It’s simple math: Too many games, not enough officials," said a school official in Pennsylvania, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer

The National Federation of State High School Associations says unruly parents at sporting events is a leading cause for the official shortage. In response, the NFSHSA has launched a marketing campaign geared towards teaching parents how to act during games, with lessons on how to cope with emotions attached to watching their children compete.  

The referee shortage at Zimmerman was not due to unruly parent behavior. Instead, it was likely attributable to weather postponements last Friday forcing more games to Tuesday.

"It was just too many games piled onto one day," said Hilyar. 

That said, dealing with disruptive parents, grandparents and students is an issue Zimmerman and other schools deal with on a regular basis. Hilyar believes those behaviors are likely limiting the number of people signing up to become officials. 

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"My experience both as an AD and a parent of three children who are actively involved in sports leads me to believe that we would have more people willing to officiate if a higher level of respect was given to our officials by everyone," said Hilyar. 

"I have witnessed parents absolutely lose their minds over a handball that occurred in the middle of the field at a 12-year-old travel soccer game and then proceed to yell at the 16-year-old official. Then after the game continue to yell at the official on the way to his car. I guarantee that if we were to interview the parent today, they would most likely have no idea what team they played in that game or what the final score was. I would also bet that 16-year-old had second thoughts on ever officiating again."

With that, the MSHSL has pushed a #ThankARef initiative, which is often found on social media before and after sporting events. 

If you're interested in becoming a official with the MSHSL, click here

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