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CHSAA launches new program to recruit and retain referees

The Colorado High School launches "You Look Good in Stripes" campaign to recruit and retain high school officials for games. The lack of referees has only become a bigger issue over recent years and CHSAA looks to solve the issue with easier sign-up forms and aiding in fees.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Going back several years, Colorado has dealt with a statewide referee crisis for high school, middle school and other recreational sports.

The shortage has only gotten worse over time. To combat the problem, the Colorado High School Activities Association has announced the “You Look Good in Stripes” initiative.

The goal of the program is to recruit and retain referees to help high school sports run more smoothly and start on time. To achieve this goal, the campaign is designed to help prospective officials cover the cost of CHSAA dues and Sports Officials Association dues for their first year. 



That would cover everything from background checks, insurance and testing to rule books and a membership to ArbiterSports. 

Mike Book, the CHSAA assistant commissioner responsible for officials, knows how expensive it can be to get started and how important it is to give new refs some relief. 



“We want to be able to remove that cost via our foundation, which is our funding source this year, and take care of those dues and CHSAA fees, and even some uniform costs for officials,” Book said. 

The program went live on Tuesday, Nov. 1, and CHSAA has already seen an uptick in referee interest forms. Book said he saw more than 100 submissions within the first 24 hours of the program’s launch. 

“It’s been going really well, and we’re excited about it and we hope everyone else is excited about it,” Book said. “I think the big thing too is we simplified how you can sign up. I got a lot of feedback from people that wanted to sign up, but they didn’t know how to start. We simplified it by putting one main link on our website and in our press release.”


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One of the biggest features of the new program is the simplified interest form, which is just five questoins long and can be found on the CHSAA website at chsaanow.com and submitted in minutes. 

After receiving the form, CHSAA staff members will be able to allocate each person’s contact information to their sport-specific area directors. Those directors will then reach out to discuss training, meetings and other requirements. 

The referee crisis has made several impacts in the Yampa Valley in recent years. Many games have had date and time changes made so local referees can travel from one school to the other. 

This has put more stress on the referees to make time for multiple games per night and pressure on teams to be prepared for last-minute changes in scheduling. 

Book emphasized the scale of this issue spanning across more than just Colorado, it is dealt with all across the country. 

“It’s been several years,” Book said. “This is certainly not a Colorado issue, it’s a nationwide issue. It’s not new, we just have to do something different than what we have done in the past. We’re trying a couple of things to get some more officials and also retain the officials that we can get and that we have.”


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