Rumor: Grass-roots re-initiative in the USA - recruiting and retention

Discussion in 'Referee' started by juneau-AK, Aug 1, 2017.

  1. juneau-AK

    juneau-AK Member

    Apr 15, 2017
    Officiating is a cool thing to do! Stand up and say it! Feel the fire. Push out the pride. Let’s talk again about how to find, nurture and hang onto sports officials. Old tired ways invariably lead to weak results. To attract more (and younger) people to join the officiating ranks takes creativity, insights and initiative. This session is designed for you if the recruiting and retention efforts you see just are not giving the kind of results needed. We’re in a time of generational change and it’s time to refresh and reframe our approaches. We can make officiating “cool” again!

    This was one of the topics at the Sports Officiating Summit, Louisville Kentucky, 31 July - 01 August 2017.

    Had anyone the inside skinny?

    A while back, there was a large survey undertaken by Mags Domka, and the results were to be presented. So get your hounds to track the findings, some one, any one.

    My understanding of the attrition and retention of referees is limited to: (a) opportunity to move upward, (b) inadequate fee-structure for compensation, (c) support-group mechanism, that is assistance and guidance to help refereeing to best ability, (d) consideration of best interests of referees when they are affected, and (e) appreciation of efforts put in by referees. These are nothing new, everyone who has officiated any organised sport would identify. It is a mix of both parties, the referee, and the organisation within which s/he are expected to officiate.
  2. Law5

    Law5 Member+

    Mar 24, 2005
    Beaverton OR
    I have not seen the survey and was not at the NASO summit. However, I've been on the front lines of this topic for over a decade.

    First, over half of the soccer referees in the United States are under the age of 19. They are, essentially, high school kids trying to make some money. A large percentage of them were signed up to take the entry level class by their mother. Virtually all of them stop registering as referees when they leave high school. The demographics in my state are that 60% are under the age of 19. Less than 2% are in their 20's. That, right there, is the heart of the turnover. The numbers rebuild as guys (and, yes, it's almost all guys) get into their 30's and early 40's. Many of those registering for the first time at that point in their lives are doing it for the money, a little side job to compliment their real job.

    On the principle that it is better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong, I will suggest that 80% of referees are primarily motivated by the money. In my experience, leagues, tournaments, clubs, players and parents are in heavy denial about the economics of soccer. They don't seem to think that paying more will bring out more people willing to become referees and stay refereeing. If you can't scratch the itch of 80% of the referees, you are not going to be successful. I absolutely do not want to play the role of "referee union negotiator." While I do cash my checks, like everyone else, money is far down the list of why I referee. But I also know a thing or two about economics and the laws of economics are not suspended when it comes to sports.

    Most discussions of this topic feature far more anecdotal evidence than real contact with actual grass roots referees. Those in leadership positions tend to talk to the people they already know and that pretty much means grade 7 and above referees, who have already been through the wars, want to advance but who have hit the glass ceiling of State Referee, etc. We're talking less than 3% of all referees. But the overwhelming number of the games that are played and, therefore, refereed in this country are at the recreational youth level. It's an entirely different issue if you are looking to help recruit, train, support and retain referees are the lowest levels than if you are trying to do that with referees in their late 20's who say they want to become MLS referees. So what level of referee are we trying to help recruit and retain?
  3. juneau-AK

    juneau-AK Member

    Apr 15, 2017

    Look here, economic factors are good to know, and it appears from general reading of the response, attrition is highest in your state in the teen-group. These are pretty much general observations. You probably have the numbers that support your conclusions. Are these available? Can you make them available? What is large percentage?

    There are cognitive and emotional stressors to be considered in officiating. Also physiological factors.

    To me, if economics are driving the retention, then reframing the situation is necessary for better understanding of motivation and commitment, and organisation-support. I also know many officials, esp. experienced with highly developed degrees of expertise make positive contribution to their sport (such as education, mentoring, physiological training, etc etc). Efforts must be aimed at using different approaches from those utilised in the past. They also must be x-disciplinary, with focus on individuals and their organisation. Sports organisations will probably realise that officials are necessary, and perhaps more importantly, a valued part of their system.
  4. frankieboylampard

    Mar 7, 2016
    Chelsea FC
    Nat'l Team:
    Ill tell you this. I think most administrators who are non-referee's view referee's as expendable. I mean cite the MLS Lockout, the Mexican referee union going on strike, etc.

    As for attrition I agree with Law5. Most of the referee's who quit (in their 20's) do it because they are in a time of change. Whether, its professionally, socially, or scholastically. In your late teens and early 20's you have plenty of time. As those referee's begin to finish college MOST have to juggle between job, social life, significant other and refereeing. Eventually, refereeing moves down the totem pole.

    As someone who was once in their early 20's once I found it extremely difficulty to balance between refereeing on the weekends and maintaining a significant other. I could only imagine with a 40 hr. job, and children.
    MNpenguin, tomek75 and Law5 repped this.
  5. fairplayforlife

    fairplayforlife Member+

    Mar 23, 2011
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Of course I left the summit just before this panel.
  6. Law5

    Law5 Member+

    Mar 24, 2005
    Beaverton OR
    I was not the one registering people for the entry level clinics, but our staff was and they made a point of insisting that our website class registration had to take into account the number of moms who were signing up their kids to become referees. Easily double digit percentages of the students taking the class were signed up by parents.

    Our turnover was 36% a year, by my calculations. USSF doesn't report the turnover by state. You have to do it yourself. I have been frequently told that the national average is 40%.

    Additional, I think significant fact: The percentage of referees not re-registering for the next year was almost exactly the same for first year referees as it was for second and third year referees. In other words, new referees are not finding refereeing to be unsuitable for them when they get started. E.g. perceived lack of collegial support for newbies doesn't seem to be an issue, nor does sudden realization that referees get yelled at by coaches and parents.

    Not exactly a losing referees issue, but still in the same category: We have no way to check who is actually doing games or how many games they are doing, but there is a perception that a significant number of registered referees never actually do a game. I think some assignors think something like 30% but I think that's way too high.
  7. kayakhorn

    kayakhorn Member+

    Oct 10, 2011
    30% is probably high, but maybe not way too high. I remember quite a few parents taking the course with their 12-13 year-olds, and the majority of those never set foot on the field. The same for coaches looking to learn the laws better.

    It's not just USSF either. We get people registering as high school referees, passing the test, and then never officiating an NFHS game. For an extreme example, I live on the edge of a part of my state that has seen great expansion of NFHS soccer programs in the last few years. That's great for soccer, but a down side is I now drive much further than in the past because I'm one of the closest referees to these new programs. Two years ago we had six people register as NFHS referees from a small town in the heart of this new area. Only one of those "referees" has set foot on a high school field, and he did only 2-3 game dates. Maybe it's a status thing?:rolleyes: More likely it's a cheap way to get a card that serves as a pass to get them into all high school athletic events.
  8. Gary V

    Gary V Member+

    Feb 4, 2003
    SE Mich.
    Maybe because the moms hold the credit cards?
    sam_gordon repped this.
  9. Law5

    Law5 Member+

    Mar 24, 2005
    Beaverton OR
    We had a mom bringing her son to the grade 8 class, because he wasn't old enough to drive yet. She lived just close enough to the class site that she could go home and then come back, but it would be a lot of time driving, so she decided to just stay. If she was going to stay, she might as well take the class. She got a higher score than her son, so she figure she should register. If she was registered, she might as well referee. Long story short, she ultimately became a State Referee and had the whistle for the high school state championship game in the largest schools classification. A forty-something five foot nothing soccer mom with a concealed weapons permit. The son eventually became a Marine.
    Doug the Ref, jmentzer, Kit and 9 others repped this.
  10. JeffG

    JeffG Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    MN, USA
    Dang! You've got the best stories!
    IASocFan repped this.
  11. Gary V

    Gary V Member+

    Feb 4, 2003
    SE Mich.
    That's how I got in, although ti was a little more planned than just, "Well, I have to be there anyway." I don't resemble the rest of the story at all though.

    When my daughter took the class, I hung around in the back of the room because of the travel time (couple hours a week on several Sunday afternoons). The instructor had me help out with a couple of things. And I could answer some location-specific questions, like how assigning in our area worked.
    Law5 repped this.

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