SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The overall numbers for basketball officials are up, but so is the average age of the referees across the state. It isn’t a problem yet, but if the state can’t find more young officials, then there could be an issue down the road.

The state of South Dakota has 496 basketball officials, which is up 25 from last year’s 471, but the search continues to add new officials.

“I’d say 50 percent of our officials are 55 or older and I’d say the lower percentage, of people who are probably in their thirties, we don’t have a very high percentage of those officials,” SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director Jo Auch said.

“I’m approaching my 20th year and a lot of the guys I started reffing with are approaching the end of their career and I don’t see a ton of new refs coming in, necessarily,” basketball official Jason Reisdorfer said. “I think the referee group as a whole is getting older.”

One of the biggest setbacks preventing the state from adding new officials is the discouragement they receive, even at younger ages.

“You see a lot of times in the second, third and fourth grade levels, these gyms that have brand new officials, guys that we’re trying to bring into the sport just getting blasted by the parents and I think the younger ages, the more intense it is,” Reisdorfer said.

This problem also shows at the high school level. Cheering and booing is okay, but Reisdorfer says it’s the personal attacks that cross the line.

“The atmosphere of gyms that are loud and ruckus with boos and cheers and all of those things, that is the amazing part of the game. I wouldn’t want to do it if it was just a dead silent, pin drop arena,” Reisdorfer said. “Part of that is totally appropriate. What I’ve seen elevate over the years, especially these last three or four years, is like the personal nature of these attacks from the parents. They’re getting very aggressive with specifically calling out certain officials and targeting them.”

“We’re really working hard with our schools to try and help with the sportsmanship end of things. I think one of the most important things we can do is try and restore some of the respect towards our game officials and recognize that they are the experts out on the field and out on the court,” Auch said. “They’re the ones that are out there pounding the court night after night, doing all these things. They’ve taken the trainings, they’ve gone to the jamborees, they’ve done their rule meetings and they’ve put in the time and effort.”

The state saw 73 new officials join this season, but their biggest hurdle will be trying to get through their first few seasons.

“I’ve heard it all, so it doesn’t really effect me. It’s the young guys and girls who are starting out that I think we really need to protect, because if we can’t get them to that two or three year mark, than we’re going to lose them,” Reisdorfer said. “As some of the older guys retire, that’s going to be the real issue, is that we’re not going to have that influx of new officials coming.”

“You’re there to watch the game. You’re there to watch the people you want, the school or community that you’re supporting, but you’ve got to just be quiet in the stands and let the officials do their job,” Auch said. “Respect what they do, because it is not an easy job to do that night after night.”

Both Auch and Reisdorfer have the same advice for new officials and that’s to ignore some fans.

“Do your best and stick it through your first two or three years, when you’re learning the game and be humble. Understand that you’re going to make mistakes and you know, shut your ears off a little bit,” Reisdorfer said. “Focus on the game with your partner and mentors and once you can make it through those first two or three years, then I think you’re in it basically for life.”

“The best thing I can tell them is, don’t listen. Try not to listen to what they say. You know that you’re doing the job and you’re doing the best job you possibly can,” Auch said.

If you’d like to become an official you can contact your local Athletic Director or visit the South Dakota High School Activities Association website.