Referee shortage impacting youth sports in Kentucky

Referee shortage impacting youth sports in Kentucky
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 3:50 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - All across Kentucky, officials and referees are needed for all different high school sports.

With seasons already underway, officials with KHSAA say it’s important to recognize these issues.

Some people like KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett say if you don’t have referees, it’s just recess.

“You have to have some structure to the contest. We have thousands of people around the state that sign themselves up as officials and do a great job, and we certainly need more. We’re at a time where we’re losing officials, so we’re continuing recruiting efforts,” Tackett said.

Tackett said last year, the number of referees for soccer bottomed out, but they’re starting to start to see a bounce back this year.

At the Lexington Youth Soccer Association, Grassroots Director Todd Bretz says while the sport grows, so does the need for officials.

“The quality and the speed of the game has got so much better, so it’s also finding really high-quality officials that has become a real challenge,” Bretz said.

According to KHSAA’s website, there are 528 licensed soccer officials across the state. For sports like this, Tackett says it comes down to one important factor.

“The environment and hostility seem to be the number one reason we’re told people are walking away,” Bretz said.

Right now, KHSAA officials say that there is still a shortage of basketball officials, but they’re hopeful in the upcoming months, they can fill some of those gaps.

Most of these shortages are being seen in the higher age and higher level sports groups.

The Kentucky Soccer Referee Association (KSRA) said there is a low number of adult referees, and they said having more adult referees who can officiate at the High School or Adult amatuer level is imperative.

KSRA works closely with KYSA and KHSAA in recruitment.

KSRA is working to recruit candidates from among the adults who play for the LYSA Adult Division, along with local colleges and universities.

Upcoming referee training events in Central Kentucky are on August 27th in Richmond, and September 17th in Lexington.

For more information on the training you can visit KSRA’s website here or the US Soccer’s Learning Center here.