It has never been easier to find a lacrosse game to play in, but it’s never been harder to find referees and officials to work those games.
That paradox of fantastic growth of the sport with an unprecedented decline in the pool of qualified officials has put lacrosse at an unusual crossroads, a point where continued expansion may be cut short unless new referees can be developed.
Lacrosse is not unique in its referee challenges — the National Federation of State High School Associations is in the middle of a multiyear effort to recruit new referees to all sports — but its challenge may be greater because of its status as the nation’s fastest-growing game. Each new program, team, club, league and tournament requires additional support from an officiating pool that has never been particularly deep.
New officials generally are drawn to sports they played as kids and are most familiar with — surveys show that more than 40 percent of officials picked up the whistle because of their love for their game — which gives basketball, baseball, soccer, football and other games an advantage in attracting refs.