One of the certainties of these uncertain economic times is that more people register to officiate school sports in bad times than in good.
MHSAA officials registrations during 2008-09 totaled 12,719 individuals, just short of the record 12,743 who registered in 2007-08 when numbers were bolstered by waiving fees for the first time for new volleyball and basketball registrants to help schools overcome one of the problems created by the switch in seasons for girls basketball and volleyball.
Totals were up in 2008-09 versus the year before in eight of the 14 sports for which the MHSAA registers officials. The big gainer was baseball (up 141), and the biggest decline was in girls volleyball (down 294).
More than 1,500 individuals do not renew their registration each year – an astonishing number – and each year they must be replaced and those new recruits must receive training in order to adequately serve school sports in Michigan. Here are several of the “truths” we’ve learned about recruiting and retaining officials:
- The most effective recruitment is one on one. Like any effective evangelism, it’s one person who is already involved and excited about something, inviting another person to join him or her in the group.
- The dropout rate for officials declines with each year they serve; and once an official reaches the fifth year, he or she is very likely to still be officiating in the 15th year.
- The high dropout rate of the early years is related to many factors over which schools have little control (jobs and families, for example); but there are contributing factors we can influence: like the initial training officials receive so they are less likely to be unprepared for an unpleasant experience that cuts their officiating careers short, and the environment maintained at events – the sportsmanship. The more prepared the official and the more pleasant the atmosphere schools provide, the more likely that official is to remain active in school sports officiating, and keep improving, regardless of the economy.
For more about sports officiating, click "Officials" from the main nav bar above.