According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 17,500 full-time referees and umpires employed in the United States. That number doesn’t include thousands more game officials, including refs with day jobs and teens, who help keep games and matches running smoothly. Also, the BLS estimates that the number of full-time officials will grow 8 percent by 2022. There are no statistics about how many refs and umps wear glasses …
Joking aside, referees, umpires, and game officials play an important role in organized sports, especially youth sports. The best officials keep the peace, ensure player safety, and, with the truly best refs, help teach kids the correct way to play the game. For large sports leagues, organizing and maintaining a referee schedule can be difficult. If you are dealing with a dozen officials among several divisions at multiple venues, one mistake can throw an entire league’s operation off. And nothing is more frustrating for coaches and parents than a game in which an ump never shows up.
Fortunately, online league management software can help administrators sort out referee schedules. Here are some ways how:
Consider a youth rec soccer league that is part of a greater club that includes competitive teams. This league likely has many rec divisions based on age, with coed games only through age 6. If you approximate 10 teams for each division, and about 16 divisions, that’s 80 games each Saturday. If your referees only officiate two matches per weekend, that’s at least 40 refs you must effectively schedule. The task is daunting, to say the least—and even more so when you consider some of the refs may be teens who have their own comp games to play those days. Online league management software simplifies this scenario so you aren’t playing a maddening version of fill-in-the-blank on an Excel spreadsheet just to arrive at a referee schedule. The process can take minutes instead of hours (or days).
Here’s a true story: An umpire assigned to a state baseball playoff game at Skyline High School in suburban Salt Lake City instead went to Sky View High School … nearly 100 miles away. The game was delayed while another ump could be found. League management software avoids this chaos by clearly defining and assigning officiating assignments so there is no confusion on where a ref or ump should be and at what time.
Referee schedules require even more diligence when organizing a tournament. Some tourney officials might be assigned six or more games in a day, so getting the schedule right (and accounting for breaks—you don’t want refs working 12 hours straight) is imperative. League management software takes the same tools that assist in creating season referee schedules and applies them to tournaments. And don’t forget to feed your refs when they do get a break ….
Referee schedules, just like game schedules, are bound to fluctuate. Rainouts, cancellations, and venue changes are unavoidable, and officials sometimes call in sick. League management software facilitates quick and efficient communication so that if a referee’s assignment changes, whether a couple weeks ahead of time or at the last minute, he or she will be immediately notified by email, text message, or both.
What is your league’s biggest challenge in assembling a referee schedule?