Referees react to WIAA letter on fan behavior

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY)- The struggle to keep referees is becoming a bigger problem in high school sports, and it could stem from a lack of restraint by parents in the stands.

As Action 2 News previously reported, the matter was the focus of an op-ed written by the executive director of the WIAA.

In basketball, referees are in close proximity to fans and when it comes to making tough calls the scrutiny can be intense, which is why the WIAA says there's now a shortage.

Varsity basketball official John Lloyd said, "Over the past years there's a little bit more of getting into a personal thing probably -- more so, I mean. You have to expect people to cheer, and you have to expect being an official you're going to fifty percent happy, fifty percent not."

In a recent survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say "adult behavior" is the primary reason they quit and about 80 percent of all young officials quit after just two years.

"I think as some of our veteran officials retire, the young blood isn't coming in as much as in the past. So they're not being replaced as quickly as they should be, I guess. I think we're going to run into a pretty severe shortage pretty soon," said Kathy Bates, athletic director at Xavier High School.

At Xavier, school officials say the fans are relatively well behaved and there's rarely a problem, but for referees who move from place to place for different events that's not always the case.

It's a problem that's also led to cancellations.

Xavier parent Kate Geenen said, "It's critical people are polite and they're respectful and understand they're trying to do the best they can. I've never met a ref who is intentionally trying to mess up."

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