From the CEO: We All Own This


US Lacrosse President and CEO Steve Stenersen stays on the topic of the officiating crisis in this month's From the CEO.

Rarely in this space have I continued a theme from a previous edition.

Then again, rarely have I received such widespread and impassioned response as I have to the subject (“Why Officials Quit”) addressed in the July/August edition.

Some officials noted that increased parent investment of time and money into their children’s lacrosse experience is the root cause of an erosion of parent and coach behavior. Too often, that investment does not generate the anticipated returns or deliver on the unrealistic expectations, and officials are the defenseless targets left to blame for a perceived injustice. 

Others suggested that the endemic parochialism and cronyism within local and state lacrosse officiating structures hinder efforts to recruit and retain officials. Leagues and event owner/operators contract independent assignors in each region of the country to provide officials for competitions, and those assignors earn a fee for each official assigned to each game.

These can be lucrative and coveted positions. Assignors make tens of thousands of dollars a year in assigning fees with limited accountability. They have significant power and control over the officials they assign, rewarding their friends with assignments and discouraging promising officials from advancing.

I also heard complaints from parents about fatigued officials who run no farther than a few yards on either side of the midfield line during a game, which gives the impression that they aren’t committed to their responsibility. Either there aren’t enough officials in the area to meet the needs of a tournament that is likely too large in the first place, or an assignor has rewarded a friend with too many games in one day.

Either scenario is of serious concern.

Another opinion is that assignors and the lacrosse officials associations they serve have more influence on the sport’s cultural landscape than they are willing to accept. Why would they assign officials to tournaments that don’t assure certain standards are in place, such as consistent rules and field support to address poor parent behavior when it arises? 

One respondent pointed to inconsistent rules from tournament to tournament as the biggest source of frustration for parents, who assume the reason for inconsistent calls is the official, not the rule differences.  

Some asked why officials agree to work games that don’t follow US Lacrosse youth rules and eligibility requirements.

But the solution to the challenge of attracting new officials to our sport and retaining them does not lie solely with one constituency. All stakeholders — officials, assignors, LOAs, tournament owner/operators, parents and coaches — own part of the problem and are essential to the development and implementation of effective, long-term solutions.

It’s critically important to understand and accept all the factors contributing to our officiating crisis to prioritize effective solutions. In the months to come, US Lacrosse will begin to engage a variety of stakeholders with the goal of exposing those factors and prioritizing solutions to improve the environment for officials, as well as the players, coaches and parents whose lacrosse experience depends on them.

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