When it comes to youth sports, there is no shortage of players. Then why are young athletes losing the opportunity to play? The problem isn’t in the numbers of kids interested in sports but in the number of referees that will officiate their games.

The shortage of referees is alarming. Here are the three reasons why the number of referees in the nation is dwindling:

  1. Number of Youth Teams on the Rise 

The interest in youth sports is on the rise. With the introduction of more games, more kids are joining the fun. There’s even a rise in girls’ participation in sports like soccer and volleyball. We have also been a surge in sports like flag football, tennis, gymnastics, lacrosse, field hockey, and wrestling. And with more players, it means there are now a higher number of teams and games to officiate.

  1. The Pay’s Not Great

A referee’s pay depends on the league or tournament. How much referees get paid also depends on what position they have on the field. Are they an assistant referee or the center referee?

According to a report by lohud, a part of The USA Today network, officials can take home as much as $1,000 in cash per weekend for working club games that are non-scholastic. However, it’s highly doubtful that public schools can pay that rate, possibly paying as little as $92 – $110. The reality is that public school districts don’t have the financial resources to pay referees more money. That amount can go as low as $75 per assignment if we’re talking about sports on the junior varsity, freshman, and middle school level. As the rate also depends on the age group, center referees have been known to make as little as $40 – $60.

Private schools and well-funded youth sports leagues may be able to pay more. However, with sports being seasonal and people needing more stable means of income, being a referee doesn’t seem to the wisest career path.

  1. Verbal and Physical Abuse

Even youth sports has its fair share of overzealous fans who yell inappropriate things at the referees and umpires. They call the officials all sorts of names when they don’t agree with the calls. The verbal abuse doesn’t end when the game does. Some people yell things at the refs in the parking lot. Some game officials have even reported being followed home. And if insults weren’t bad enough, there have been reports of game officials who have had things thrown at them or were physically assaulted by disgruntled fans.

The reality of referee emotional and physical beating is so disturbing that in the UK, a national helpline has been launched to support refs who suffer from abuse during matches. And in the US, The Washington Post reports that the cause of the referee shortage is the verbal abuse from both parents and coaches.

Many officials eventually quit, saying the emotional strain and fear for their safety is not worth it. And when you combine lousy pay to the likelihood of being berated and emotionally abused each time you perform your job, it’s not surprising why youth sports is suffering from a shortage of referees.