Every coach talks about how having enough depth in a playing squad is crucial to success. Depth provides a range of benefits to a team, from healthy competition for starting positions to having enough quality players to sustain the team when injuries hit, there is no question that the best teams are able to rely on the depth of their squad. But what if your team barely had the required number of players to make up a team, or worse yet, didn’t even have enough players for their starting team? This is the reality facing most officiating teams.
There is a range of causes for the lack of numbers in officiating, which are well documented. But we don’t often talk enough about the flow-on effects from the lack of depth in officiating. We’ve outlined the main disadvantages for officials created by a lack of depth.
1. Referees and umpires placed in overwhelming situations too early
When you’re a player, the primary focus is on developing skills and having fun in the early stages. It is generally years before you begin to be thrown into competitive environments with any accountability for your performance. For a referee, they’re often placed into situations before they’re ready. They’re also having their performance scrutinised by players, coaches and supporters from their very first game, from many who aren’t even qualified enough to do their job.
2. A lack of support from teammates
Every player experiences a poor performance from time to time. But one of the best things about being apart of a team is that you have teammates to cover for your performance and provide additional support when you aren’t at your best. Due to a lack of numbers, many referees are forced to officiate independently and soak up all of the negativity themselves.
3. Fewer experienced referees to assist younger referees
Just like teams look to have a balance of experienced players to lead, teach and provide insights, officiating teams require experienced personnel to assist with training and development. When talented referees and umpires quit early, particularly for preventable reasons, there is an immediate effect on the entire officiating team leading to a significant decrease in quality to the officiating pipeline.
4. Less mentors and managers
Recruiting and retaining talent is one of the most difficult yet important tasks for any organisation. Keeping in mind, the turnover rate for sports officials is comfortably above any other industries (per Compdata Surveys), the lack of referees and umpires who progress to become mentors or managers further dilutes the quality of training and development. Once you’re relying on unqualified volunteers to train officials, there is going to be a never ending cycle of below par performances leading to further turnover rates.
Our list of outcomes created by a lack of depth is not comprehensive, but most turnover is somewhat preventable when we create a system of accountability and build a culture focused on development. Leagues should prioritise the long-term recruitment for their officials to truly see an improvement in the entire depth of their officiating team, or be prepared to consistently experience a range of problems.