PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota High School Activities Association has been forced to make some schedule adjustments this year, due to a shortage of officials.
“I wouldn’t so much call it a shortage as much as a shortage in specific areas and so, when you talk about locations, the outer edges of the state and the non-metropolitan areas, that’s where we struggle to get those officials,” SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director Randy Soma said. “When we talk about shortage, that’s where we have because it’s a long-distance to travel to those events.”
The number of officials rose from last year to this year from 390 to 409, however, the activities association would still like to see that number go up even more.
“We’re up in football officials, but we’ve also gone from a four-person crew to a five-person crew, four or five years ago and for that it limits the number,” Soma said. “A lot of crews have extra people in their crew to offset if there is an injury or someone is sick or if they need a break or those kinds of things. We just need to continue to get those numbers up and especially new officials.”
The activities association has worked with athletic directors to ensure good treatment of officials, which is key to the growth of the official numbers.
“Treating our officials correctly and that’s just a common theme that we need to do everywhere. Good sportsmanship doesn’t just include the officials, it includes everybody,” Soma said. “We work with those AD’s (athletic directors) and the fans as well as the players and coaches for that treatment, because it’s kind of a thankless job and we’ve got to make sure we’re thanking them for everything that they do, because without them, we wouldn’t have these events. I think just treating them correctly, appropriately and doing those things at games.”
The state has made minor adjustments in 2021 such as moving games to Thursday or Saturday or playing an early game Friday so the officials can do two games.
However, if the state doesn’t see some help going forward, there could be even more changes on the horizon.
“We are always looking for new officials, but we also don’t want to get to a point where we have such a limited number of officials that we have to spread it out through the whole week or we have to go to less games per year or some of those kind of ideas,” Soma said. “Right now, I don’t see that happening. I see us doing a really good job and like I said, we’re getting more numbers of new officials out and the hard part is, we’re losing years of experience, with those that have retired and that makes it real tough. We want to make sure that we get them in to mentor some of these new ones.”
If you would like to become an official you can contact the SDHSAA office, your local athletic director or visit this link on the SDHSAA website.
“You talk about basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, cheer and dance… really it’s all of our sports like cross country and track. We are always looking for new officials and we continue to look for those new officials,” Soma said. “We try to educate. We try to work with the AD’s (athletic directors) and the coaches association to keep promoting it.”