Ref shortage in Minnesota youth sports is ‘generational,’ official says

What’s with kids today that they don’t want to be umpires and referees in youth sports?

The Alexandria Echo Press says there’s a “ref shortage” in Minnesota. The old-timers are running out of gas, and the kids out of college don’t want to — or don’t have time to — get in the game.

“As an official, I started seeing the pinch probably five, eight years ago. Somewhere in that ballpark,” Brandon-Evansville principal and activities director Nate Meissner said. “We’re just not getting the youth in it. The young kids, the kids coming out of college or the kids in the college age aren’t getting into officiating.”

The number of officials for youth games in the state has dropped by 500 in the past seven years.

It helps to be in an area where people want to spend some time.

“There are certain times when it’s a little tougher, but for the most part, people want to come to Alex. … You think of the competition, but the location, too. People want (to come),” according to Robert Brakke, the assistant principal at Alexandria’s high school.

But it can be a tough sell to get people interested in the activity, especially with the stories of the grief parents give refs.

“It’s a world where we question everything. It gets wearing over the course of a whole game where everything you do is questioned,” Brakke acknowledges.

Meissner disagrees.

“I don’t think people have quit because we’re getting yelled at too much. I don’t think they’ve quit. We’re just not getting new ones,” he tells the Echo Press’ Micah Friez. “The young kids aren’t getting into officiating. I started when I was 18 years old. I graduated, my dad was the assignor for the association in this area, so that’s what I did. And I did everything.”