BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– When wrestling official TJ Fraher started refereeing 30 years ago he had to fight for a spot on the mat. Now if he doesn’t fill an open position the athletes might not play. 

“We’re now to the point where I’m a 30-year veteran official and I’m refereeing just as many modified or junior high matches as I am varsity or college matches,” Fraher said.

While the number of people willing to do the job is at an all-time low, those still participating are seeing an increase in harassment from spectators. 

Most recently two officials were followed into the Baldwinsville parking lot by an adult who verbally assaulted them for the calls they made.

“It’s a high school game, intense of course, but it’s for the kids. I mean if you’re that fired up at a game to scream obscenities or not set a good example, that’s a problem,”

Chris Campolieta, Baldwinsville Athletic Director

Fraher said the increase in these types of incidents have caused many officials to hang up their uniform early, creating even more of a shortage. 

“Now I have to make a decision, am I letting down a group of students that just gave up two, a year, some almost two years of athletics because of COVID-19 and now they may have to miss games because there just aren’t officials,” Fraher said. 

Chuck Holtsbery, another veteran official, said he’s seen an increase in injuries among the people still refereeing because of how many extra games they have to pick up.

While he says he’s gotten used to tuning out the spectator’s comments, it’s driving newer officials out of the business. 

“I think people when they have a negative experience after a year or two it leaves a bad taste in their mouth and they get out,”

Chuck Holtsbery, High School Official

Campolieta is calling on fans to have not only patience but respect. 

“My plea with parents is, enjoy the time that you get to see your kids out there and participate… be thankful for that, cheer for them, have fun, but at the same token be cognizant of what you’re going to say, how you’re going to react,” Campolieta said. 

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