The Michigan High School Athletic Association is a membership organization – an association of schools, not individuals – that usually doesn’t think of itself as such. Most member-based organizations work hard to recruit and retain members because member dues are an important revenue source.
That’s not true for the MHSAA which charges no membership dues, no sport sponsorship assessments and no tournament entry fees. The MHSAA is free to join and its tournaments are free to enter.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think like a member-based organization or that none of the dynamics of membership-based organizations apply here.
For example, we are in the business of recruiting and retaining contest officials; and while we registered approximately 10,600 officials last year, that number is significantly lower than six years ago, and the average age is increasing. So, like any other member-based organization, we need strategies for attracting and holding new, young officials.
A new tactic launched this fall is the “Be The Referee” feature (Click Here) on a Lansing-based sports talk daily radio show and weekly television show. Our staff explains rules and points of emphasis, and then we make a pitch for new officials.
But the most fundamental strategy for recruiting and retaining officials is consistent, ceaseless efforts to improve officials’ working environment. This means improving the assigner-official relationship before events and the sportsmanship at events.
Ultimately, if assigners treat new officials unprofessionally and spectators treat them abusively, we have no chance to increase the numbers and decrease the age of MHSAA registered officials.