Just as sports are expanding, teams are facing one problem around which there seems to be no end run—a growing shortage of referees to officiate at games, especially in high school sports. It's not that new blood isn't coming onto the field. The problem is that many refs last only a year or two.
Abusive behavior by players and their parents, as well as by fans—and even coaches—in response to calls they don't like is driving some officials away for good. Lower level, poorly paid officials are especially quick to depart. "You're largely doing it for psychic income and love of the game," says Barry Mano, president of the National Organization of Sports Officials, based in Wisconsin. It's not the booing, but the threats, he says. Players and parents scream at the referees, Mano contends, saying they're "going to wait outside the arena" to redress the call.