(ABC 6 News) – Without referees, high school sports just aren’t the same. And as one crew bows our, more officiating spots need covering.
On Wednesday, a group of officials with 195 years of combined experience took the field for the last time for a job that needs referees more than ever.
On a soggy night between Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton and Alden-Conger/Glenville-Emmons, one referee crew saddled up for their last dance.
The crew of Bob Rinaldi, Dennis Flom, Don Nolander, Jeff Rayman and Alan Schallock all working their final varsity football game as officials.
"Just sticking it out for 47 years for myself. I take a lot of pride in what I do," high school official Bob Rinaldi said.
However, as Rinaldi and Flum move to the junior varsity and freshman level, Minnesota continues to face a growing problem in high school sports: a lack of officials.
"This year, for the first time, we had to move two of our home games to Saturday nights because we couldn’t find officials for a Friday night game. And so, to get them, we had to move to a Saturday," Jenny Hovendick-Savick, athletic director at A.C.G.E, said.
"I would suggest it’s a slow and steady decline for probably 10 to 15 years. We’ve known about this, I would say, probably since the mid-2000s," Tom Wollan, a football assigned for Suburban Officials Association, said.
A significant factor for the declining number of officials is age as well as disinterest from younger candidates. Not to mention younger people don’t seem willing to take on certain difficulties.
"The young officials, let’s say they’re in high school. and they go to the football games. Well, if they sit in the stands and watch the officials work, sometimes the coaches yell at the officials or something and they may just say I don’t think I want that," Dennis Flum, a high school referee, said.
Despite the problems the shortage presents, there are easy solutions to gaining officiating interest.
"Getting involved even at lower levels, whether it’s officiating an elementary ballgame or getting involved as a junior high official where you don’t have to have the same amount of training," Hovendick-Savick said.
"In-person, through social media or any other outlet that we can talk to people. I would challenge those people that are considering this that – try it once," Wollan said.
It may not be an easy job, but officials do it for the love of the game and it’s that love that has kept Rinaldi and Flom in the business. And hopefully future referees too.
"Those people that are playing ball and want to stay close to it, officiating is a great way to stay close to the game and to a thing you love doing over all those years in high school and in college," Rinaldi said.