Referees work year round to prepare

Organization is short staffed, recruiting people willing to learn


RYAN BLAKE | The Daily Evergreen

Tim Lewis discusses the challenges of not having enough referees throughout a season.

RYAN BLAKE, Evergreen reporter

Officials around the region are attending meetings and training sessions to shake off the rust in preparation for the upcoming high school basketball season.

Tim Lewis, vice president and training coordinator for the Southeast Washington High School Basketball Officials Association, said that this season, like others in the past, will be a challenge due to a shortage of referees. With mass retirement statewide and a lack of new candidates, navigating the long, tumultuous season short on staff can be taxing physically and mentally, he said.

Lewis, 22, has helped lead the effort to solve the referee shortage, starting with an emphasis on broadening their recruitment strategy. Lewis said they are looking for young people who are excited and willing to learn.

Additionally, he said the organization is trying to become more diverse and representative, with a focus on recruiting women and minorities.

“There are a lot of people out there that have talent and just haven’t had the opportunity yet,” Lewis said. “We want to give those people the opportunity.”

Garnering interest in officiating is no easy task, Lewis said. A new referee has numerous requirements to meet before stepping foot on the floor for a live game.

New officials must attend meetings, clinics and on-court training sessions throughout the offseason, as well as pass a basketball rules test. Lewis said he estimates new officials put in 10 to 12 hours of unpaid time before the season starts.

“The questions I ask myself every time I build a training session are,” Lewis said, “ ‘ Is this going to keep people engaged, is this going to be helpful to them, is this beneficial, and is this something that’s going to kind of show that officiating is fun?’ ”

University Recreation is one avenue for recruiting new officials. Lewis, an intramural supervisor with UREC, helps with training officials for the intramural programs at WSU. He said he encourages those who wish to continue improving as an official to try refereeing high school sports.

Aaron Miyasaki, another intramural supervisor with UREC, began the leap to high school basketball officiating this year. He said in addition to monetary incentive to continue moving up the ranks, he wanted to grow as an official.

“Working intramurals, you kind of reach a cap where you see the same thing over and over and you can’t really grow past that,” Miyasaki said. “The experience to be able to work through middle school up to [junior varsity] then to varsity is an incentive and makes me want to be a better official.”

Lewis said his goal is to show people how fun and profitable officiating is in hopes of increasing interest in the job.

“I’m a firm believer,” he said, “in anyone who walks in with the right attitude can referee,” he said.