There are around 300,000-350,000 total high school sports officials in the U.S. but states like Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas are all reporting a decrease in registered officials. In fact, Oregon saw a 12 percent decrease in the last three years alone.
Factors like low pay, negative environments and a lack of advancement opportunities are discouraging those who are interested in becoming sport officials. The decline in Tennessee is even being attributed to a new background check policy implemented in November 2015. This policy requires officials to pay their own fee to get a criminal background check each year to remain an official. With a fairly low wage, this could be hard for those who rely solely on officiating games for their income.
Beyond low wages however, their overall working environment is growing more negative. In fact, poor behavior from spectators is cited as the number one reason officials left the field. Additionally, 85.7 percent of officials said they would consider terminating their officiating services if the environment continues to worsen.
The decline in sport officials across the nation means fewer games for kids and some sports being dropped altogether from school districts. Sadly, this has already been seen in Florida after a lack of officials caused near-extinction of high school soccer teams.
To find out what is being done to increase the number of school sports officials, check out the infographic created by Ohio University.