Over the past two years, Oswego High School and other high school sports around the country have experienced referee shortages. In hopes of solving the problem,  OHS will offer a new officiating course for the 2023-2024 school year.

Overall this course is very similar to the “Team Sports” course already offered. Students will be able to collaborate with the team sports class while also learning the contents of becoming an official. Most importantly the class will provide students with the opportunity to learn the sport outside of the classroom at athletic events. 

The declining number of referees has caused many difficulties in high school sports. This past fall, there were two Friday night football games (the white out and orange out games) changed to Thursday due to the shortage. Mr. Darren Howard, OHS athletic director, has had many experiences with the shortage that he’s had to work around. 

“We have had to reschedule games or create doubleheaders in baseball due to not having officials or enough officials to cover multiple fields/courts,” Mr. Howard said. 

The reason for this shortage is due to multiple factors. However one of the most probable causes is the treatment of referees by players, coaches, and fans. Another factor is COVID-19.

“With the average age of a referee being 58 years old, a number of them chose not to expose themselves to people during the pandemic and some of them have since chosen just not to return at all and give up being an official,” Mr. Howard said.  

Mr. Howard said that the class will be beneficial as long as students who take the course follow through and work at high school games. Besides this course, OHS athletics is doing the best it can to help the situation. 

“We do all we can in terms of helping the officials associations and the IHSA to recruit and publicize the need. We are also joining the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) in their #BenchBadBehavior initiative to work with all involved to stop the abuse that the officials are taking and instead respect them and honor them for their dedication and commitment to high school sports,” Mr. Howard said. 

All in all, the shortage can only be solved if people put the effort into becoming officiates. With no referees, there are no high school sports. 

“We need people and that is the only way that the shortage will be improved or solved,” Mr. Howard said, “along with that, I ask our Panther Community to please exhibit good sportsmanship at all games and at all times!  There is no reason at all to act poorly at a youth, high school, or college athletic event .” 

If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming an official, click here to learn more about what it means to become an official and to begin the application process.

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  1. What a cool way to help alleviate crowding in some PE classes while also addressing an IHSA need. Thanks for the info!

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