CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Now that we are back in the full swing of fall sports, the spotlight is once again on the officials. A shortage of game officials has been an issue for the University Interscholastic League (UIL).
“The kids work very hard to play a sport and they need officials. Without the officials it’s just a practice,” Larry Amaya said.
Amaya has been a baseball umpire for 40 years. This year is the first year he has stepped onto the gridiron to be a football referee. He said there are about 5,600 football officials in Texas for high school, but 900 more are needed.
In all his time, Amaya said this shortage of officials has always been an issue. Now, it’s becoming more apparent.
“Some games have to be canceled because there’s not enough referees," he said. "I know that they’re playing throughout the week, Tuesday through Saturday to help accommodate all the games."
Pete Aguirre has been a football referee at all ages for 36 years.
"Our enrollment has declined the last few years," Aguirre said.
That has taken a toll on many of the officials that still come out to games.
"It makes it a little bit hard to officiate due to the fact that sometimes were shorthanded," he said. "We need four officials. Sometimes, we don't have enough to cover. So, we just have three officials. Sometimes, we only have two."
Amaya is also on the board of directors for the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO). He said they’ve come up with a plan to attract and retain new people. Amaya also has an idea himself.
"This is a great way especially for young kids, high school kids, college kids come out and work and not affect your school. You go to school during the day, officiate in the afternoon," said Amaya.
The problem is the environment has become increasingly tense, deterring people from becoming an official. In 2020 a student athlete attacked a referee in Edinburg.
“You got to have a thick skin," Aguirre said. "Coaches will question your call and you just have to stick with your calls.”
“We’re trying to reach out to everybody involved and letting them know that we’re working hard to become better and efficient officials, to help the kids play these games,” Amaya said.
If you are interested in becoming an official, you can visit the TASO website or the South Texas Football Officials Association website.