With the high school football season starting, finding referees to officiate games is becoming more difficult.
“On a normal year, we have about 75 to 77 officials,” said Los Padres Football Officials Association President Bob Rollins. “This year, we have 59 to 60 working officials.”
The shortage of referees is causing schedule changes for all age groups.
"This year, we had to go through and ask all of the eight-man schools to move to Thursday or Saturday," said Rollins.
“If it gets any worse, we're going to have to have teams move off Friday night and have more games on Thursday,” said Los Padres Football Officials Association Assigner Mike Ostini.
"If you don’t have an official, you can't play the game," said Johnny Diaz, a Central Coast referee.
The Central Coast isn't the only location having trouble securing referees.
"Nationwide, we're down about 30 to 33 percent in officials in all sports," said Rollins.
Recruitment of younger referees has been a key reason for the struggle.
"We are rapidly approaching the point where we're going to have to just flat out tell schools 'no'," said Rollins.
"We're aging out," said Ostini. "It'd be nice to get a crop of young officials."
"One of the things that could help is if we get a lot of younger guys," said Diaz.
The pandemic is also a key reason why referees began leaving their roles.
The shortage of officials, however, started before the pandemic arrived.
"It's been going on for the past five years in our area significantly, and then the pandemic just doubled the problem," said Ostini.
Diaz, an Air Force Academy graduate currently based at Vandenberg Space Force Base, says officiating is his way of giving back to the Central Coast and his surrounding community.
"This was another way for me to be around the sport and dedicate my time to helping kids in the community," said Diaz.
Entering his sixth season, Diaz said there is a greater meaning to being a referee.
"It's not for us, it's for the kids," said Diaz. "They're the ones who are playing the game and high school sports are a good thing for everybody."
According to LPFOA, the most prominent demographic for local officials are those in their mid-40s to mid-50s.
The other age group of prominence on the Central Coast for the job is 55 and older.
For more information on how to get involved with officiating on the Central Coast, visit the Los Padres Football Officials Association here.