Referee shortage fueled by sideline incidents amid football season
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Incidents on the sidelines are holding people back from wanting to ref local high school football games. Friday night lights aren’t the same this year for Section V.
The referee shortage has forced a schedule change.
Peter McCabe assigns refs to hit the fields across Monroe County. He was brutally assaulted by a player in 2009. He says he continues to officiate games but is concerned about the abuse of officials, he says that’s where the shortage is stemming from.
“We’ve gone from 135 guys a few years ago to 85 now,” McCabe said.
McCabe has been running the fields since 1987. He says he lost refs during the height of the pandemic, but more from incidents on the sidelines.
“Last season we had police called, we had parents drive the officials off the game to their cars, threaten them.”
McCabe says youth football games are where the problems are.
“The number one reason why we can’t retain them is because they do youth football the first year and I can’t even get into the problems we have with youth football its horrendous.”
McCabe says safety for the ones who hold a whistle is top priority. He didn’t let his own assault keep him from what he loves and he hopes that rings true for others.
“I was almost killed on the field in 2009. Someone struck me in the face with his helmet, but I didn’t let that deter me from officiating,” McCabe added.
Lack of refs means schedule switch ups. Some games that are typically played on Fridays have been moved to Thursdays.
“Most of the guys retired because of age, everyone’s catching up in age, and we can’t get young people to replace them.”
Through it all, McCabe continues to encourage people to become a referee.
“I love to see the kids grow, from little kids right up to varsity, the comradery with other officials you work with, I have lifelong friends.”
You can sign up here to become a ref for your local high school. Or you can directly contact the athletic director in your area.