Blooming Prairie, Medford, NRHEG and Owatonna have each had at least one football game rescheduled from Friday to Saturday this fall because of a statewide shortage of referees.
According to referee Kurtis Retterath, the shortage isn’t just a result of the pandemic. Demographics also play a factor, he said
“I’d say it’s just age. Younger people don’t want to do it as much as older people. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of the officials are on the older side,” said Retterath.
Retterath said he’s tried to recruit younger people to become referees, but there is not enough advertising or recruiting being done overall.
Retterath, who has been a referee for six years, said that he became a referee because his father was one as well.
Another factor contributing to the shortage, according to Retterath, is the disbandment of referee associations.
Retterath was once a part of the Austin Football & Softball Officials association until it “fell-flat” this past year.
As a result, he and many of his colleagues are now working as independent referees.
“Associations just help you schedule games if you don’t want to do it. Whereas if you’re independent, you can go out and get the games you want or contact the schools you want to do. I’ll probably join the Rochester association personally. I don’t know if my crew will though,” said Retterath.
Retterath also said that when schools move games to games Saturdays, it is usually because the crew is missing a member.
Along with age and associations disbanding, Retterath said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted referees as well.
There is some concern in the referee community about the spread of COVID-19 via exposure to high school students, said Retterath, adding that he plans on refereeing well into the future.
“I want all the community to come together at a football game,” said Retterath. ”There’s nothing better.”