The Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission is leading a collaboration of local youth, amateur, and professional sports groups, including Minnesota Hockey, to address the ongoing situation facing sports today, the sheer lack of available referees.
The collaborative group is working under the Play Together MN name. Many members of this group recently worked together, with guidance of the State of Minnesota, to ensure safety and protocol during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Together, we were able to create consistency and protect our youth athletes, referees and coaches during one of the most challenging times any of our organizations had faced,” said Todd Johnson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. “And together, we believe we can recruit more referees and provide them with the support and education to rebuild the depleted industry.”
According to data provided by USA Hockey, referee registration reached its lowest point this century during the 2020-21 season, down 28% from 2009-10. The number of Level 1 officials, which serves as the starting point for new officials, was also at its lowest point on record last season and dropped over 250 officials (27%) from the previous season.
Executive Director of Minnesota Hockey, Glen Andresen is straightforward, “The bottom line is that to play youth sports, we need officials. We are starting to see a severe drop in the number of officials in several areas of the state which has resulted in the cancellation of games. It’s imperative that we do everything we can to make sure our officials are respected and welcomed if we want them to keep our kids playing and keep them safe.”
Youth and amateur sports from all seasons share in the ongoing decline of certified referees. The Minnesota Youth Soccer Association and Twin Cities Soccer Leagues, who are also a part of Play Together MN initiative, reported similar concerning figures as soccer referee registration is down 18% from 2019 and down 33% from the peak in 2009.
There are many benefits to becoming a referee. Regardless of sport, the position has great flexibility, income opportunity, and is a way to stay connected to sport. Referees can also develop important skills like leadership, relationship building, effective communication, punctuality, situation management and conflict resolution.
Play Together MN has a website for those interested in becoming a referee: (https://www.mnsports.org/resources/become-an-official/). Additionally, the group will be hosting a one-day Referee Expo in February at the National Sports Center. This will include a panel of experts to help show the value and impact referees add to the game.
To learn more about becoming a youth hockey official in Minnesota, you can also visit: https://www.minnesotahockey.org/new-official.
Play Together MN Members (including but not limited to):
Where: The National Sports Center, Welcome Center, 1700 105th Ave. NE, Blaine, MN 55449
When: 9:00-11:30AM on Saturday, February 12, 2022
What: Speak with youth sports groups recruiting referees and listen to a panel of referees, athletes, and professional sports staff discuss the importance of referees in sports.