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Michigan facing shortage of high school officials, referees

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Referee pulling penalty flag out of pocket

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Michigan high schools are facing a shortage of athletic officials and referees.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has seen the number of registered officials drop from 12,400 to about 10,000 in the past decade, The Grand Rapids Press reported . Because the economy is doing well, there are fewer people looking to officiate games for the extra paycheck.

The athletic association surveys former referees every three years to find out why they stopped, said Mark Uyl, the group’s assistant director. The four major factors are a change in profession, a change in family status, lack of sportsmanship from coaches and poor sportsmanship from spectators.

There’s a shortage of officials in all sports, said Jim Haskins, the president of the Ottawa-Kent Conference, which has almost 50 schools across Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

Some sports are rotating nights between freshman and varsity levels to spread out the pool of officials, said Tony Schmitt, the athletic director at Reeths-Puffer High School.

“It really is encompassing all of our sports,” Schmitt said. “In the spring, we don’t have enough officials to cover games, so it’s an all-encompassing issue because our pool of officials is getting older and there’s just not that pool to draw from.”

There are almost 100 officials associations in the state and many are working aggressively to recruit new officials.

The Midland Athletic Officials Association has approached Northwood University students and area high school students about becoming officials, said Mark Bauer, the association’s president.

“You’re not going to get rich, but you can make decent money for a kid,” Bauer said. “What you make on a Friday of basketball is what you make working all day Saturday at McDonald’s.”

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