Drive around Warsaw, and Kosciusko County as a whole I suppose, and you will see one thing on just about every block of every street – “HELP WANTED” signs.

Every restaurant, repair shop, and retail store is begging for help.

Gas stations are offering $10 an hour for people to work in their convenience stores, and the employee gets to choose what hours they work.

And mirroring that, we are really starting to see a decreasing number of people becoming referees, umpires and game officials.

Full disclosure here: I was a licensed basketball official for 27 years, I was licensed in baseball for 10, and volleyball for a couple of years. I started when I went to college in 1986. I did a lot of umpiring when I was younger at little league parks around Marshall County, and I really looked at being a game official as a way to stay involved in sports. And, let me be perfectly honest, it paid for a lot of visits from the pizza delivery guy to Butler University’s Ross Hall.

I let my licenses expire because my broadcast schedule and being married and having children just didn’t leave enough room for doing enough games to make it worth it anymore. I miss it, and I still do some elementary volleyball and basketball here in town. Part of that is because officiating is still an itch I need to scratch, but it’s also because they need people like me to help.

There is growing concern about the quantity and the quality of those people who are wearing stripes and whistles or facemasks and blue shirts.

With all effort to avoid making this a bashing of young people, it’s a fact that there are simply very few young people who are choosing to get involved in it. As older officials start to hang it up, there just isn’t a large pool of people waiting to take their place.

Why? Well, there are all kinds of reasons why.

Generally, when athletes graduate from high school these days they are ready to move on with their lives to either jobs or college. There isn’t a “romantic” sense of staying in the sport or sports they loved. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite is true. There is a sense of relief for many kids that it’s over. And that really does make sense. If a kid has been playing in summer leagues and on travel teams every summer for the last 10 years, and volleyball year-round, and on teams that spend weekends at tournaments all over the eastern half of the country, then play for their school teams, they’re burned out by the time they graduate. They’re glad to get a break, and they have other stuff like college coming up.

The last thing they want is to become an official.

And let’s also be honest, the whole concept of officiating is not a pleasing one to too many people to start with. I mean, how many people want a physically-demanding job where their judgement will be constantly questioned to the point that people are yelling comments about your mother’s dating life or the results of your most recent eye appointment.

I feel confident in saying that no one walks up to a polisher at one of the orthopedic companies in town and starts screaming at them for being on-the-take or incompetent, right?

And that stuff happens at little league parks, softball diamonds and fieldhouses all over the country.

Yes, officials DO get paid, but it’s still not the ideal set up for a part-time job or a gig meant to provide a supplementary income. Early-20-somethings in 2018 are not wired to put themselves into uncomfortable positions.

Being a game official is not comfortable.

What we have happening is older officials (whose time of being their most effective is behind them) are still in high demand because schools don’t have a lot of choice – they have home games coming up and they must fill them.

The pay really is good! When you consider the hourly rate and the knowledge and physical exertion that is required, it’s really a fair deal.

Now that I think about it, if all of the people who sit in mostly empty gyms and berate the officials would just put on a striped shirt and whistle and show us what they really know about the rules and how to enforce them, we wouldn’t be talking about this shortage at all.

I know, like THAT is ever going to happen.