Michigan’s Free Football Officials School hopes to recruit new referees; a model for all to consider

As reported by Lisa Paine of MiHomePaper.com, Michigan is addressing the shortage of football officials in a novel way: a free online football referee school.

“In last year’s COVID year, we lost 30 percent of our officials. I had 62 people who couldn’t work,” said Long, who has been officiating for 50 years.“Locally, our average age for football officials is 51. In our situation in the area, I feel stronger that the average is 60, with many like me, working in their 70s because they love the game.”

Long said the trend has been to pick up new referees when they are age 18-21. However, once they get married, start careers and move out of the area, Michigan loses them until they reach about 40 years of age and are looking to get back into the game. – Lisa Paine, MIHomePaper.com

Paine goes on to share how Long is addressing the shortage of officials.

“Something else that has put a lot of pressure on us, schools lose athletes and end up playing 8-man. Most officials want to work Friday night 11-player football” Long explained. “We find ourselves competing for 11-man and 8-man games now.”

When you do the math, you can quickly see how the number of officials needed on any given Friday night pulls from the shallow pool. All four of Phil’s leagues like to use seven officials. Sometimes they have to get by with five or even four.

“The last couple years I have 28 sites that need seven officials and the sub-varsity sites need five,” Long stressed.

Read more about Michigan’s plan HERE

The free program is posted to YouTube every Tuesday and people can learn no matter the time of day. The following Monday there is a live Zoom meeting at 7 p.m. for questions and further discussion. The powerpoints are also posted so the registered participants can review the material over and over.

The program is based on what Long called the three-legged stool – rules, mechanics of officiating, and philosophy of high school football. “It’s fun. We’ve never done it before,” said Long.

For more information, or to register to get started on Jan. 4, log on to [email protected].


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David Keech
Author: David Keech

David Keech is a math teacher in Wisconsin Rapids and public address announcer for Abbotsord High School. He officiates basketball, baseball, and softball in central Wisconsin. He has reported on amateur sports since 2011, known as 'KeechDaVoice.' David can be reached at [email protected]