Referee perspective on statewide shortage

Jimmy Troxell (Left) stands with his officiating crew before a soccer match.

Jimmy Troxell (Left) stands with his officiating crew before a soccer match.

Luke McLendon, Editor

Despite being essential to all sports, refereeing is not a strongly desired position in Birmingham. 

Alabama’s prolonged ref shortage is due, in part, to the pandemic, from which sports have recovered, but the search for officials has not.

Jimmy Troxell is the booking agent and referee assigner for high school soccer in the greater Birmingham area. He notes a rising average age of refs not being replaced by a younger group in most sports, specifically football.

“Every sport is teetering on the skill of referees and the number of referees,” Troxell said.

A lack of refs leads to lots of game rescheduling and overworked officials, with more experienced ones on the field six or seven days a week.  

“10-20 games a week tires you out,” Troxell said. “We have some very durable people, but most start going through pain getting through a high school season.”

The earliest age to referee in Alabama is 14, starting small with elementary or middle school sports. 

Troxell emphasizes that most issues with heckling and disruptive parents occur in these younger leagues as parents haven’t attended enough games to develop a strong awareness or respect for referees. 

Bobby Deavers, HHS’s senior counselor and local basketball and football referee, agrees that parents’ sideline remarks are a driving force behind the referee shortage. 

“Those comments can definitely strike fear in younger refs, Deavers said. On the basketball court, there’s no barrier. People get nervous about injustices affecting their kids or themselves.” 

Despite this, Deavers and Troxell emphasize the numerous positive aspects of refereeing and urge more high school students to get involved with ASHAA.

The position provides ample opportunity for involvement in the community. “Seeing students grow up as they go through rec league and AAU, then seeing kids you know in national tournaments is always a great feeling,” Deavers said.

Troxell describes the job as getting paid for exercising and watching a soccer game. On top of that, he says, friendship and camaraderie between the refs are the best aspects of the position. 

The Alabama High School Athletic Association assigns referees to every high school sporting event in the state.

If anyone is interested in becoming a referee for any sport, visit the ASHAA website for more contacts and information.