NORFOLK, Neb. -- Referees, sometimes we love them and we sometimes, well we may not.

But one thing is for sure, without them we wouldn’t have sports.

Unfortunately for Nebraska, the state is facing a referee shortage.

John Dolliver, an Assistant Director of the Nebraska School Activities Association, explained there are a few reasons for the shortage.

“We’ve been noticing over the last few years a trend downward in officials that have become registered with the NSAA. We’ve not only tracked it back to just in our state but nationally for four reasons,” Dolliver said. “People get older and they get out of the advocation because of their age. They change jobs so they aren’t able to commit the time it takes to be an official. Or they have family that starts playing and playing participating and they want to go support them.”

Dolliver added that since the beginning of the pandemic the NSAA has lost 15-20% of its officials.

Due to the shortage, all high school sports in the state have suffered from its effects which include moving game times and dates.

The NSAA has been vocal about the issue discussing the topic of sportsmanship with schools and recruiting new officials.

“We’ve noticed a decline in how officials are treated. Not only in basketball but in all activities that have officials or umpires,” Dolliver said. “Somebody asked me earlier if we’ve hit the panic button and we have. We are trying to speak anytime we get in front of administrators, teachers coaches about sportsmanship.”

Corey Uldrich, an official and the Principal of Hartington-Newcastle High School, has developed an innovative solution for students to learn about officiating right in their own schools.

“Colleges offer, and maybe some larger school districts offer sports officiating classes and we’ve talked about starting to offer that here more so because we have officials living in this community that we can build on,” Uldrich said. “Getting kids into a high school class to discuss officiating, the philosophy behind officiating, rules.”

If you are interested in becoming a referee, visit the NSAA website.