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Officiating associations: A report card

According to the US National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), high school sports participation increased for the 29th consecutive year in 2018.

Contrast that with a 2018 survey by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference showing 43 out of 50 officiating associations had either a decrease or no change in the number of registered officials compared to the previous year. Only 7 associations (or 14%), had a net increase in the amount of officials on their books.

It’s a damning situation and one so common that has resulted in what the industry has dubbed ‘the great referee shortage’.

So much so the the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), the nation’s peak representative body for officials, applauded a State association for “officiating numbers only declining only about 5 percent in recent years, against the trend in many areas”.

Many commissioners and athletic directors single out the great job local officiating associations are doing at training officials in the mechanics and laws of the game.

But associations are so busy doing this, and filling assignments, they don’t have time to dedicate or plan for recruiting new officials. So it begs the question, who is responsible for recruiting officials if local associations are unable or unsuccessful?

Centralising recruitment attempts seem to have to have marginally more success. Over a 24 month period, the NFHS #becomeanofficial campaign produced approximately 19,000 expressions of interest, however only an estimated 9% of those actively took up officiating.

These are warm, not cold leads; people who have actively expressed interest. Compare this conversion rate to an national sporting organisation in another sport and again to what businesses consider a successful conversion rate (Harvard Business Review).

19,000 Enquires are good numbers, so where is the disconnect?

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