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Shortage of youth football officials could push high school games to Thursdays and Saturdays

Football field
Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 20:23:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — There is a shortage of youth football officials, which means several high school football games may be pushed from Friday Night Lights to Thursdays and Saturdays.

“It was very difficult to recruit over the last two years," said Gary Gittelson of the San Diego County Football Officials Association, citing the pandemic. "More of us are getting older and not able to keep up with the sport, and we’re not getting enough younger people in.”

Gittelson says before the pandemic, the Association, which provides the referees and officials for football games from the high school level down through Pop Warner, had around 400 members. So far this season, there are only 270.

He says officiating is a great second job or hobby for men and women who love football and want to give back to the community. It requires a small investment at the start. Dues to join the SDCFOA help pay for training, while members also need to purchase their own uniforms. However, new members will quickly begin getting assignments to officiate youth games, which pay at a rate beginning at $66 per game. “An opportunity to give back to the community," Gittleson says. "It’s an opportunity to exercise and you get paid for it.”

SDCFOA also has a partnership with an organization called "Battlefields to Ballfields", which encourages active-duty and retired military to become officials. The non-profit even helps cover the dues for some SDCFOA members and provides the uniform. “It’s like a secondary part-time job, you know, but I’m having fun so I don’t consider it a job," said Tim Bell, an active-duty Marine at Camp Pendleton who finished his first season as an official in 2021. “Being a referee, a football referee, is the next best experience to keep me close to the game and on the field," Bell said.

Those interested in becoming football officials can sign up at the SDCFOA website https://www.sdcfoa.org/