The need for sports officials is especially high at the amateur level.
One of the sports in the biggest need, especially at the high school level, is football.
The National Football League has recognized this problem and is again doing its part to raise awareness and bring new candidates into the realm of officiating.
It's doing it through its Football Officiating Academy, and for the second straight year, the Ohio Valley will host the academy.
Last year, the NFL brought its program to East Liverpool and it was a rousing success with 32 graduates. Starting on June 4 and running each Tuesday through the end of July, St. Clairsville High School will host the Football Officiating Academy, which can host up to 100 people and is free of charge to attend.
"This is a program the NFL has had in place for about four years and we'd previously done in the New York area," NFL Director of Officiating David Coleman said during a phone interview from his office in New York. "This is part of our grassroots outreach to identify and train young people who can become football officials at all levels of the game."
Those who attend and finish the academy will be certified to officiate football, but would still have to honor requirements put forth by both the Ohio High School Athletic Association and West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission before working this fall. However, the official would receive everything he or she needs in terms of a uniform.
"We did really well in East Liverpool, and we're looking for similar success in St. Clairsville," Coleman said. "The majority of those who finished last year are now doing youth or junior varsity football and there are actually a couple who are doing even better."
Coleman pointed out that one individual completed the class and is already working at the collegiate level and also a woman who is already officiating at the varsity high school level.
"Those are probably two of our biggest success stories, but we're proud to say the other 28 are doing well also," Coleman said. "Our hope is that all people who come through this academy will take full advantage of the mentorship process that's available."
Some of those who've finished the academy have also been hired for supplemental roles at NFL games at venues close to their home. Some of the New Yorkers have done different duties with the Jets and Giants, while some of the East Liverpool graduates have been afford opportunity to work at Steelers or Browns.
The clinic will run from 6-9 p.m. each week and will consist of a classroom setting of going over rules and then an on-field clinic and instruction. Things such as life skills, character building, mechanics, keys and on-field drills will be the focus. Specific situations for kicking and goal line placement will also be stressed.
"One of the other goals of these academies are to bring trained, tested and equipped officials to the area," Coleman said. "We hear all the time about the challenges in finding new talent, so this is a baseline roots of our development program."
The academy is aimed for beginners and while it's open to any age bracket, the target audience is between 17-27.
"We won't turn anyone away, but we've seen that those who want to start officiating and grow in it, the younger he or she starts, the better," Coleman said. "It takes probably about 10-15 years of growth and advancement to move up in the ranks."
Spearheading the academy is East Liverpool High School Assistant Principal Jay Kiger, who also works with the NFL in officiating. Coleman, who works clinics throughout the country, indicated he'll be in St. Clairsville at least two or three times during the academy's stay.
"Honestly, someone who starts officiating this year and if you look three years from now, there's an 11 percent chance of him or her still doing it," Coleman said. "The long-term opportunities in this are something we teach, along with the ability to stay connected to the game as well as preserving the integrity and safety of the game."
For more information, or to register, you're encouraged to visit nflofficiating.com
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org