Help wanted: WIAA needs officials


Help wanted signs are everywhere, and they should be posted at high school sporting events. Why?

According to a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association press release, there is an ever-increasing issue that could put a kink in the return-to-play plans in Wisconsin and across the country: a shortage of officials – as in referees and umpires – that borders on catastrophic in some sports and in some parts of the nation.

The shortage of officials in high school – and middle school – sports has been a growing concern for several years; however, the pandemic has moved the issue to heightened levels.

Registration of officials across the country is down about 30 percent this year, according to the National Association of Sports Officials.

In a football officials association in California, nearly two-thirds of its members opted out of officiating this year, and in Georgia, one middle school had to cancel its baseball season due to a lack of umpires.

In some cases, the number of available officials has declined due to health-related reasons because of people opting because of the pandemic.

For other officials, however, the pandemic was a secondary concern compared to the verbal abuse they receive from fans – mostly parents. It is particularly hard for rookie officials to overcome the verbal shots they hear from parents.

In an article in the Salt Lake City Deseret News, Jeff Cluff, assistant director in charge of officials for the UHSAA, had the following to say about unruly fans in his state:  “Parents are out of control. … Because of the club and super-league culture, they think these games mean everything; we don’t look at it that way in high school. Kids are learning, the officials are learning, the coaches are learning. We have lots of people who are interested in officiating. If we could keep these officials, we’d be fine.”

Schools in Wisconsin need two things: more individuals to consider officiating and an improvement in fan behavior so that officials don’t have to deal with verbal abuse and can feel good about continuing to officiate.

Those interested in signing up to become a WIAA-licensed official should visit:


Two state tournaments will be held at their usual sites: UW-La Crosse (track) and Uihlein Park (girls soccer).

State track, held in the city since 1990, is June 24-26 over a three-day period because events for both genders will be conducted in one day for each of the respective three divisions.

State soccer, held in Milwaukee since 2004, is June 24-25, pending WIAA Board of Control approval. The four-division tournament will use both fields simultaneously for the semifinal games, and there will be unrestricted attendance.


The first WIAA girls state wrestling tournament has been scheduled for Jan. 29 at the La Crosse Center.


Mask mandates for spectators has been removed from the COVID-19 guidelines for outdoor spring state tournaments if appropriate social distancing can be attained. Masks are encouraged for everyone not participating if social distancing is difficult. Masks remain required for spectators for any competitions conducted indoors. In addition, the pandemic guidelines for quarantining after close contact with a confirmed case of the virus was reduced from 14 days to six days for the spring tournament series if symptom free. Vaccinated athletes are not required to be quarantined for close contact if they are symptom free.

Categories: Sports

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