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May 13--  There's a generational change going on among high school sports referees and umpires and the result is a shortage of officials in Georgia. For example, referees had to be brought in from Tennessee last year to help cover the state high school football playoffs.

Alan Smith of Vidalia, Executive Director of the Georgia Athletic Officials Association, has sent letters to Georgia high school coaches appealing for their help in recruiting new officials,"It's not that we're experiencing getting to a shortage of officials.  It's already here and we need to do something today."

alansmithAlan Smith discussed the need for officials Monday on the Southeast Georgia Today morning show on NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3

Smith notes that a lack of officials threatens organized high school athletics, "We're always told as officials that while everything else is going crazy around us, we've got to keep our heads because we are the lynch pins of the game that makes it happen.  Coaches and players, it could not be done without them, but without officials, it's just physical education."

Smith has been officiating basketball for more than 50 years and knows it's a labor of love.  He identifies three challenges facing those called to the job, "Pay and timeliness of pay.  Then, the sportsmanship issue and abuse from coaches and fans and the fear of the arena.  The hours are bad, the pay is low and everyone's a critic, but it is rewarding.  I sometime pinch myself when I think about the number of years I've officiated, the players I've met, the spectators I've met and become friends with and all of the coaches I've worked with.  To be able to be part of a sport I love and to give back to a community I love, it's hard to beat that."

Smith says officials are paid about $16 an hour and receive training from the officials association.

If you'd like more info, his number is 912-585-8391.

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