Economy boom, officiating bust

Challenges lie with trying to find high school officials
By: Jim Linsdau
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We often take for granted that every game we attend is going to have the officiating necessary to put the outcome in the record book. Most of us do not know where those men and women in striped shirts come from or how they got to be an official.

Jim Jorgensen is a California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section assigner. It is his job to see that every football game has a crew present to officiate the contest. Jorgensen does not recruit potential officials, but he is well aware of the section’s need for them.


“Four years ago, we had 400 basketball officials,” Jorgensen said. “This year, we have 320.”


He referenced basketball because recruiters are now actively trying to find candidates for winter sports, including soccer and wrestling. By December, they will be looking for baseball and softball umpires.


As a football assigner, Jorgensen has had to go outside the Sac-Joaquin Section to bring in officiating crews from other areas. He said one of the Northern sections lost a few schools and had extra crews willing to fill in.


Jorgensen said one of the reasons for the shortage was a boom in the economy. He said in the past, when the economy was sluggish, officiating was a great way to pick up extra money.


“And now, the economy is good,” Jorgensen said. “They don’t need those second jobs or they’ve got a better (second) job so refereeing isn’t appealing.”


A 35-year official, Jorgensen said officiating is more than just making a few extra bucks. He said it was a great way for him to stay in shape and remain close to the sports he played. He said he also met people who have remained close friends to this day.


Recruiters register, insure, train and rank their officials. Candidates get 18 hours of instruction, testing and beginning assignments like scrimmages and freshman games.


From there, they can work their way up to varsity, and they are not limited to just one sport.