High school sports referees in short supply as practice starts again

As high school sports like football and basketball resume their seasons, COVID-19 is making the search for referees unusually hard.

Video Transcript

- Middle, middle, middle!

JOHN GARCIA: The first official day of football practice and the Streamwood Sables have been waiting for this for many, many months. Forget the snow on the ground, COVID-19 gets the blame, and the virus is also making it tough to find referees once the actual games begin.

J.J. CRAWFORD: We're running every sport in a four-month period. That's, A, it's unheard of, and, b, it's not supposed to be done that way because there's not enough refs, there's not enough facilities.

DAVE LOPSHIRE: We lost a lot of officials.

JOHN GARCIA: Dave Lopshire has been working as an official for basketball, football, and lacrosse for more than 25 years.

DAVE LOPSHIRE: We need more young officials, and we need parents to understand that these younger officials are learning how to officiate the game.

JOHN GARCIA: Lopshire says many referees are opting not to work football or other sports this year to stay safe during the pandemic. Others refuse to wear a mask while running up and down the field. And with lots of different sports overlapping this year because of COVID-19, the demand is even greater.

Randy Brickman assigns referees to soccer games, and that's a challenge this year.

RANDY BRICKMAN: Even though schools are playing dramatically less than the 25 IHSA limit, we're still having a considerable issue filling games.

JOHN GARCIA: Football games start in a little more than two weeks, and it will be a busy time for many refs. Dave Lopshire is officiating a basketball and then a football game on the same day later this month.

DAVE LOPSHIRE: So I'm going to have to change uniforms and equipment and go think about from basketball to football in two hours.

JOHN GARCIA: Many schools are aware of the difficulty in recruiting referees, so they're encouraging their players, coaches, and fans to treat those officials with courtesy and respect.