More teens stepping into to referee sports amid nationwide ref shortage

CLEVELAND – Sports have always been a mainstay at the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Ohio, and despite a nationwide referee shortage, the game continues.

“When you have a nonprofit organization with limited resources, it’s really important and wonderful to have teenagers who really want to be there,” said Ken Wood with the Boys & Girls Club of NEO.

To combat the shortage of referees, these teenagers are trained as referees at clubs. Since the start of 2018, 50,000 judges and referees have been lost, according to the National Association of Public High Schools.

“There’s a lot of friction between the coaches, the fans and sometimes even the players, and I think that lack of sportsmanship has a lot to do with it,” Wood said.

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Dan Rodriguez has noticed the same shortage, and he’s teaching an umpiring class at Jackson Township High School in an effort to attract more students to umpiring.

“I’m just trying to capture the audience and educate them during school hours, which makes this a popular class that helps address the problem of scarcity,” Rodriguez said.

“I feel like it’s a big age gap, and I feel like it’s our responsibility to play in the youth space and show up to help the kids who are playing youth sports,” said student Kyle Carey. .

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Students learn about everything from the rules of the game to how to deal with angry coaches and players.

“I think it’s going to be another money-making game in college,” Brodey Gande said.

While students learn the game and serve as umpires as teenagers, Rodriguez said many of his students are serving as umpires as adults.

“They can get certified to be able to use it,” Rodriguez said. “Some of our graduated students are in different states. “I have one athlete right now in Pennsylvania who played high school football when he was in college.”

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