KSHSAA adds referees in final push for fall sports officials

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 9:51 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2023 at 10:52 PM CDT
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) – The shortage of referees and umpires that has left high schools in the area scrambling hasn’t gone away, but more improvement came this week.

A week ago, KCTV5 reported that KSHAA’s football ref roster hit rock bottom in 2022 and has been slowly climbing, with two more referees signed up than the prior year. That was with three days to the deadline. We’ve since learned that they had 42 more people sign up between Friday and Monday. They’re still 32 shy of pre-pandemic numbers, but it’s a start.

76-year-old Jim Easterday is one of the people who jumped in just before the whistle blew. He contacted KSHSAA and they slotted him to learn how to officiate volleyball.

“I saw your program asking for referees and my heart sunk when I thought that there were going to be some individuals that couldn’t play because there was a lack of referees,” Jim said from his Overland Park home on Friday.

He and his wife, Dorothy, have five kids and 13 grandkids. The photos are on every wall. They’ve been in the stands for just about every sport, and Jim coached a lot of them. They recently started judging debate.

ALSO READ: KSHSAA board approves changes to state championship formats

“Extracurricular activities, whether they’re athletics or debate or things of that nature, are very important for the children,” Jim said. “I want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate.”

He has fond memories of all the people who helped him as a youth athlete, from baseball as a little tyke to basketball in high school. He saw this as the perfect opportunity to pay it forward.

Scott Goodheart, KSHAA’s director of officials, spoke to him on the phone.

“Kudos to him. And kudos to people just saying, you know, I’ll give it a try,” said Goodheart. “That’s what it takes. Really, it’s just getting out of your comfort zone and trying something that you’re not really maybe comfortable with or you thought you would do.”

That would describe Jim well. He’s never been the actual official for any high school game.

“I always called the game from my seat,” he admitted after his wife teased him about it.

He never gets too loud about it though. Dorothy is always there to put her hand on his knee if she thinks he’s raising his volume enough for others to hear.

“I’m really here to kind of fill a gap. I’m not trying to start a new career,” Jim clarified, “but if the need continues, I will continue as best I can.”

Now is the time to start thinking about signing up for winter and spring sports. They’re short there too, but few people can just jump on board suddenly. There is training involved.

“People think anyone can be a referee,” said Goodheart. “Well, yeah, anyone can go put a shirt on and go out there and do it, but what we require for registered officials is a lot more because we hold them to higher standards.”

Jim participated in a clinic and took an exam. This weekend he will be doing his final clinic at St. James Academy, then he’ll get one-on-one training with a supervisor during a series of games later in the day at the St. James Slam. He will officiate his first game on Sept. 5.

The KSHAA deadlines for registering are below:

  • Wrestling: Oct. 31
  • Basketball: Nov. 6
  • Girls’ Soccer: Mar. 4
  • Baseball: Mar. 4
  • Softball: Mar. 4
  • Track & Field: Mar. 4

KSHAA registration information can be found here.

MSHAA registration information can be found here.