Football games in jeopardy
Alabama High School Athletic Association in need of High School officials
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Carl: The Fall season in the state of Alabama are known for football. The bright Friday night lights in North Alabama a rite of passage for so many communities as teams compete under the watchful eyes of game officials. That could all change if the number of officials continues to decline within the Yellowhammer State.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association entered the 2021-2022 season struggling to find enough officials to field games on Friday nights. Huntsville native Mark Russell has officiated within the state for 26 years.
“We are having a referee shortage,” Freeman said before a High School game this season. “It’s hard to recruit the officials on Friday night. There’s all kinds of reasons and it carries from individual, but it varies from individual, but we all need to respect the game. The players need to respect the game, the coaches need to respect the game, and the fans need to respect the game.”
Fans are a major part of a game atmosphere. One reason the Alabama High School Athletic Association has delt with low officials numbers is the abuse from fans in attendance.
The registered officials within the state have dramatically declined. Over the last five years, registered officials totals have decreased 15.5 percent. The COVID -19 Pandemic was a factor, but many officials trained during 2020 left and never came back.
“We’ve had several weeks where we’ve had to borrow from other districts, where they have had to travel more than 60 miles one way in order to not have to move a game to a Thursday or Saturday,” Alabama High School Athletic Association Director of Officials Ken Washington said. “We’ve had a handful of games moved to Saturday and Thursday. But there’s nothing like Friday night football, that’s what we’re accustomed to and that’s what everybody enjoys. So the mor officials we can train up, typically it takes 3-5 years for an official to be ready for a varsity contest, but we can go ahead with the preparation now and go there and confidently and officiate on Friday night’s.”
Officials within districts in Alabama have hosted official’s workshops and clinics state residents interested in becoming a football referee.
“There’s guys that want to get better, there’s guys that just want to be the best High School official, there’s guys that want to move on to College or the pro’s, so we’re constantly learning and getting better,” Mark Russell added.
“When you’re twenty-two years old, and it’s gonna happen and we teach how to deal with it. But we would like everybody to respect the game, treat people they way you want to be treated and just know without officials we can’t play.”
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