Over the summer I was having a conversation with a longtime assignor who was working on logistics for a youth, high school and post-collegiate tournament. The officials are always provided a space in the vendor area at this event to talk to people about rules, officiating, the game or just make people aware that officials are human and not just blind robots wearing zebra stripes.

What this assignor wanted was some flyers that they could pass out to people that stopped by the tent. They wanted to try and recruit them to be officials.

The proposed flyer would list some of the top benefits of being an official and a link to an easy to fill out form that connected the individual with their state officiating coordinator. The coordinators would follow up with training information and continue pursuing them to become an official. Those resources can be found on the US Lacrosse website.

This was all started, by a simple phone call and conversation about an idea and a call for some assistance.

We created the form for this tournament, pushed out an online version through our state coordinators and added it to our website with some social media pushes. We've always had points of contact on our website, but the form gave us better tracking analytics to see how it worked. From August through September, we had a little over 200 people fill out the form expressing interest in becoming an official.

Inspired by the success, we launched a more robust social media campaign over the course of October and November and we are closing in on 1,000 people expressing interest in becoming an official! Think about it. Nearly a thousand people that want to officiate! I have always said, if we talk one person into officiating, it’s a success, but even I was not expecting this over the first four months of posting something as simple as a form. 

The campaign, primarily on US Lacrosse's Facebook and Twitter accounts, has now reached over 250,000 people via social media and the link to the form, has been clicked on around 2,500 times with nearly 1,000 completing the form.

While the formal campaign on our front is coming to end, it doesn't mean we, both US Lacrosse and the lacrosse community, need to stop sharing, telling and asking people to become an official and sell them on the benefits. We see stories on the news throughout the year about how we are losing officials and we don't have enough to begin with. All true in most cases, but if we can keep this momentum going and continue to recruit officials, maybe, just maybe we can turn that story around into a positive and talk about how as a lacrosse community, not just as an officiating community, we rallied together and kept recruiting and kept getting more people into officiating.

One of the priorities in US Lacrosse's current strategic plan is to have 20,000 officials by 2023. We still have work to do, but we are starting to move the needle back in the right direction. We are continuing to focus on efforts to bring more officials into the game by offering resources like this campaign, continuing to add to our online learning library for officials as well as reworking our curriculum for both new and returning officials. This year we will have a formalized curriculum plan for junior officials to help get current and former players into officiating.

We have also begun offering equipment scholarships for those who want to officiate, but can't afford the startup costs before they even step on a field to see if they like it. We will end 2019 by providing over 100 officials with a $100 dollar scholarship to go towards the purchase of the equipment and uniforms they need to officiate and look professional on the field.

Let’s keep sharing the benefits of officials and pushing people into staying in this game, in the role of an official. Those that played, coached or were just a fan will experience a whole new dynamic and be a part of another team.

Charlie Obermayer is the senior manager for officials development at US Lacrosse.

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