Blake McPheeters spends countless winter evenings inside gymnasiums throughout the area. He loves officiating high school basketball games.“There’s nothing better than having a packed high school gym,” said McPheeters, a Jefferson City resident who has officiated high school football and basketball games for more than a decade.The 33-year-old McPheeters is more the exception than the rule in Missouri high school officiating.Go to almost any sporting event in Missouri, and you’re more likely to see an official who is at least 50 years old than one who is under the age of 40. Only wrestling and water polo have more MSHSAA-registered officials who are under 40 than those who are 50 or older.Kenny Seifert, an assistant executive director for MSHSAA and the organization’s director of officials, is trying to boost the state’s numbers of young officials. Seifert appreciates veteran officials’ experience and commitment, but he doesn’t want MSHSAA to experience a void of qualified officials after the older generation hangs up their whistles.HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Those interested in becoming a MSHSAA official can apply online at www.mshsaa.org/Officials. The cost to apply is $65 for the first sport, $30 for a second sport and $25 for each additional sport. After MSHSAA receives an application and fees, it will send the applicant a rulebook. Upon passing a rules test, the applicant receives an official's license and becomes a registered official. For more information, contact Kenny Seifert, a MSHSAA assistant executive director and its director of officials, at Kenny@MSHSAA.org or call 573-875-4880.
BY THE NUMBERS
Here's a look at the number of registered officials for MSHSAA sports in 2016 and the percentage of those officials who are under 40 years old compared to the percentage of those 60 or older.
* Data compiled and provided by MSHSAA
“Within the next couple of years, as our older officials decide to complete their career of officiating, we do not see the younger numbers of officials to replenish that,” Seifert said. “That’s the growing concern, added with the fact that the population continues to grow, which means more and more kids are playing sports, which more and more schools are having teams.”
Seifert, the former athletic director at Moberly who has been an official for 12 seasons, is working with colleges and universities across the state to recruit young officials. He’s reaching out to college students who are enrolled in physical education, coaching or sports science classes and connecting with students who officiate college intramural games.
“I am going face-to-face and meeting with these students all across the state,” Seifert said. “A lot of kids just don’t know about the opportunities that exist in officiating, and they don’t know how to go about the process of registering. Once they find out it’s not that difficult and there are people they can communicate with to assist them with the process, all of a sudden they’re eager to get involved. The feedback has been tremendous.”