Lubbock high schools seeing shortage of sports officials

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 7:04 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Schools are back in session and so are the sports, but finding enough referees to officiate the games has become a struggle.

“Learning the rules, studying the rules, passing tests,” Chris Snead, a sports official, said. “It’s not just going to get a shirt and a whistle and staying 25 yards away from the ball.”

Snead has been a sports official for 30 years. He started his career to make money in college; since then, he has experienced high school to college sports, football to volleyball.

“All they see is the part where officials walk on the field, they throw their flag, or they blow their whistle, then they leave,” Snead said. “There’s a lot that goes into that: the preparation, the time away from your family, the investment for uniforms, studying and continuing education to get better.”

The stigma surrounding officials and pressure from the fans can deter some from getting on the field.

“No matter what you do, whether you’re right or wrong, half the stadium’s going to be mad at you when you blow your whistle,” Snead said.

He said people expecting to get a pat on the back after every game should probably steer clear of officiating.

“That’s the part that’s keeping younger officials from sticking around the game,” Snead said. “It’s the idea that it’s personal; they make it personal, you have to remember that they’re not yelling at you, they’re yelling at the stripes.”

He stated dealing with a bit of trash talk from fans and players is all worth it in the end.

“It’s getting to be around the game, the Friday night lights, being part of the action, knowing that you’ve done something to the best of your ability,” he said.

Snead said the only thing that can solve this shortage of officials is to take a chance.

“Give it a shot, don’t be discouraged, and stick around. You might find a new career,” Snead said.

Snead stated fans in the stands should cut the game officials a break and allow them to learn, just as the children in the game are learning.

Those interested in becoming an official can click here for more information on how to get started.