Referees and Officials are in a unique position to help create abuse-free sport settings for everyone.

Referees and officials see sport in a way that most cannot. They know where to look, and what
to look for. They see the game within the game, the big picture and the tiny details, the forest
and the trees.

It’s a unique ability, to be sure, and it doesn’t come easily. Officials take the training, pass the
tests, and stay up to date on their sport and its rule changes. Good thing referees tend to be
avid learners.

And it’s also a good thing they do this for the love of the game—their game. A 2020 National
Association of Sports Officials survey tells the tale: over 43 percent of respondents said they got
into refereeing “for the love of the game,” by far the biggest reason.

Officials love sports, know the value of sport as an institution, and want to give back to protect
the games they cherish.

Says college basketball referee Michael Book, “The environment, the camaraderie that I call the brotherhood and the sisterhood of officiating—it’s like none other.”

Changing the Culture

Improving the climate of sport is in everyone’s best interest, including officials.

Across the country, administrators from youth leagues to high school sports are struggling to
find enough referees to work games. According to an August 2022 Denver Post article, some
50,000 officials have left the high school ranks since 2018-19. Poor fan and coach behavior
toward referees was among the main reasons for the shortage.

“We’re in a referee crisis and trying to climb out of that,” says Book, also the assistant commissioner overseeing officials with the Colorado High School Activities Association.

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The U.S. Center for SafeSport is a nonprofit organization created to respond to and prevent sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement, from which it is independent. The Center also trains and educates people and organizations at all levels to support sport and recreation settings across America that protect athlete well-being.