BOSTON -- Just as important as the players on the field are the ones calling the shots.
And this fall, referees are in short supply.
Richard Pearson, Associate Executive Director for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, said four years ago the state had about 6,000 referees at the ready. But that number has dropped to 4,300. The decrease is impacting schools throughout the state.
"We are absolutely experiencing a ref shortage as we speak," Pearson said.
Billy Sittig, the Assistant Athletic Director of Boston Public Schools, says the district has moved some games from the Friday Night Lights to Thursday. They've even doubled up some games to take advantage of regular availability.
"They are close, but it was something we needed to do to afford each game the correct amount of officials."
Patricia Gonzalez, the Athletic Director at Newton South High School, said her school is running into the same problem. It's an issue they're dealing with for every sport.
The officials are under a lot of pressure when they officiate, and not everyone is kind," Gonzalez said.
And Pearson said the gameday environment is pushing so many out the door. Seasoned referees are aging out, and younger ones are unwilling to deal with the gameday hostility.
"I think some of that atmosphere is what the issue is," Pearson said. "And we really need to make that atmosphere a better, a kinder, and more sportsmanship-like environment for our officials to do their jobs."
As for this fall, schools are continuing to recruit more referees. In the meantime, they are asking parents and friends who go to the games to be kind and remember that they are there for the kids.
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