The Boardman Local School District is playing a part in helping secure the future of scholastic and other forms of sports threatened by a shortage of referees and other officials.

Boardman High School started a sports officiating ‘pilot’ class this school year and plans to offer sports officiating a semester class in the coming year.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has been reporting a shortage of sports officials for several years now.

According to exit interviews with officials across the country, one of the top three reasons cited for stepping away is the escalating unsporting behavior toward officials by participants, coaches, and fans. The other two reasons most cited are a job change and opting to spend more time with family.

Boardman High School senior, Braeden Pugh, is an example of a program to bolster the declining ranks of sports officials.  Pugh won a new $500 grant from RefReps and a non-profit group called ‘Save Our Sport’. His goal is to become a sports official.

“The OHSAA has gone away from in-person classes which poses a challenge for new sports officials getting started,” said Brian Ladner, BHS Health/PE teacher who’s instructing the class. “We based our class on the OHSAA’s preference, the RefReps program, which is a really engaging, informative, and inclusive sports officiating education curriculum.”

So far, five Boardman High students have had the opportunity to officiate in some capacity.

Pugh and a few others referee Mill Creek Recreational Flag Football and Soccer league each Saturday, gaining experience and getting paid as well. Pugh and another student are umpiring baseball games during the week in surrounding communities.

Students taking part in the Boardman officiating class will not be required to get certified in each sport if they don't want to.  However, they are still required to learn how to officiate football, volleyball, and soccer in part of the fall semester and then the winter/spring sports in the second semester.

Part of the training they will get is in class work where they will officiate games between their classmates where they work on gaining confidence in their abilities and managing conflict before being placed into an actual game setting.

Students then put what they learn into action by participating in practice or scrimmage settings and work youth games to hone mechanics and get a true feel for the game. I

Students must officiate two real games in a local recreation or community league setting and is recommended as micro-internships.

The purpose of the Save our Sport “Right Start Grant” is to support high school students in their pursuit of personal, professional, and academic development and success through the journey of becoming a sports official.

Braeden Pugh was the first applicant that received the award. The $500 Grant is intended to go towards the purchase of equipment and support resources.