Last Saturday, the MHSAA hosted the largest gathering of sports officials ever assembled in this state at one time and place: 1,248 under the same roof.
The occasion was “Officiate Michigan Day” that preceded the 31st Sports Officiating Summit conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) in Grand Rapids. The summit began Sunday and concludes this evening in Grand Rapids.
On Sunday afternoon, nearly 300 of Michigan’s officiating leaders – local association officials and trainers and registered assignors – went through three hours of training which the MHSAA requires face to face every other year.
All this comes at a challenging time for our officiating program which is most dramatically demonstrated by this fact: the number of MHSAA registered officials has declined by 1,895 - 17.5 percent – over the past four years!
We know of course that our registration totals were temporarily inflated by two outside factors after 2007. First, after the court-ordered change in sports seasons for girls basketball and volleyball, the MHSAA allowed officials to add those sports to their registration free of charge in 2007-08 through 2010-11. And second, as is always the case, the recession pushed many new people into officiating; but again, just temporarily – we’ve lost many of them as the economy has slowly improved.
I do believe the MHSAA and its member schools and the local officials associations that serve school sports are up to the challenge we face. The same community that just rallied to provide record attendance in Grand Rapids has the ability to reverse the trend that could weaken school-based sports: fewer officials.
We will get there with three E’s: (1) encouraging officials; (2) equipping officials; and, most of all, (3) providing officials an environment in which to thrive – that’s one that is safe, sane and sportsmanlike.
I’ll have more to say on all three E’s over the course of the next few months. In the meantime, I invite you to learn more about officiating in Michigan here at MHSAA.com.