There are many reasons, but the biggest of which
nobody wants to talk about…
In Aroostook County, high school basketball is a rich tradition. With the exception of last year’s COVID season, people pack our tiny gyms to support the student athletes’ passion for the game. The one primary element that allows the games to go on are the unsung “third team” that everyone loves to hate: the referees. They are the law, the over-bearing authority, but their job is to remain invisible. One major problem facing the future of high school basketball here in the county is the shortage of officials.
Julie Goupille began officiating in 1997. When she began, there were 75 active officials on Aroostook County’s Board 150. Now there are 28. “One reason I think is it is a time commitment. People have to give up their evenings. And there is a lot of travel involved,” Goupille said. “When I first started, you never worked multiple games in a day. But because of dwindling numbers, it will happen every weekend this season.” This further explains the challenges that assignors run into.
Like anything else, there isn’t just one reason. But there is one that just about every official can attest to. “In my opinion, the primary reason is the abuse that officials take,” Goupille said. Everyone is guilty about complaining about calls or blaming the refs for why their team has a lost a game. After all, they are the easy targets. You don’t have to take any responsibility when laying the blame at the door of the officials. If your team lost by one point, it wasn’t the five layups they missed or the 10 free throws that didn’t fall. It was the player-control call with five seconds left in the fourth quarter. “You are fair game when you’re out on the floor,” Goupille said.
Young Board 150 official Will Bridges started officiating just one year removed from high school. “I wanted to stay in the world of sports when I was going into college and also stay with basketball throughout my life,” Bridges said. But he really started because of the need for people willing to step up. “I knew Maine, but specifically Aroostook County, needed officials to help with games around the county.” With just two years of experience, Will has put up with more than his fair share of grief when out on the floor. “I have received more abuse than what I thought I was going to get when I first started. I received it from mostly coaches and fans.”