High School Basketball Official Shortages a Real Problem

Board #150 Officials Pedro Rodriguez (left) and Mark Turner (right) (Photo by Tim Goupille).

     For referees, there are not many personal goals to strive for. Their jobs are to disappear into anonymity. They don’t want to be a talking point after the game. It is a thankless job in every sense of the word. But the biggest milestone they can reach is making the tournament. Every year a certain number of officials from each board across the state of Maine are selected to officiate tournament games. “The highlight of my career was probably getting selected to go to Bangor for the first time,” Goupille said. “Once you have a taste of that, it’s addictive. You want to work hard every year to go back.” She officiated at the tournament for seven years and worked a state championship game in 2020. 

     With the declining numbers of officials, you might ask what can be done to prevent the numbers from getting too low. “As officials, we also have a responsibility to enforce the rules we have in regard to sportsmanship,” Goupille said. “If, collectively, we could crack down on coaches, players and fans, we would see a huge change. The biggest need to stop verbal abuse of officials is to raise the expectations of how coaches, players and fans should behave when at a game. The expectation now is that you pay your five bucks to get into the game, and then you can do and say whatever you want.” An overall attitude change toward what people can say to officials would undoubtedly stop the decline and get more people willing to become officials. “Let’s face it, all of us who have officiated are a little bit touched in the head. We’re crazy to get out there and take the abuse year in and year out. We do it for the love of the game. And we do it for the kids” 

     Perhaps most ironic about fans, players and coaches lashing out is that they simply do not have as deep an understanding of the rules as the officials on the floor. The officials have taken the course.  They also have to take a test every season, refreshing themselves on the rules. “I believe probably 95 percent of people at games know the basics. But probably 2 percent know the rules as much as the officials do,” Will Bridges said. 

     Overall, people need a little more understanding and a little more open-mindedness on those involved in high school basketball. Although officials may make many mistakes, they are never the only reason a team lost the game. They are doing their best. If they believe they could do a better job, they can go take the course.