(WJW) – An essential part of what makes high school sports go is in short supply in Ohio. 

Ohio High School Athletic Association official Tim Stried says the number of referees working games is dropping at an alarming rate. 

“We need a lot more officials,” said Stried. “We have about 15,000 officials. A few years ago, we had 17,000 and we are seeing that number declining every year.”

OHSAA did some research and found one of their biggest issues was taking the first step in the process to become a ref, an in-person class.

“For example, if you want to be a volleyball official and your area has one class available and it’s on Tuesday nights but you work on Tuesday, you are out of luck. You just can’t become an official,” said Stried. 

To fix this issue, OHSAA is moving their classroom instruction online to a platform called RefPrep. 

Anyone can now sign up and take the course at home, at the office or even at school. 

“You can get the classroom portion done online and the thing we are seeing is that high schools are now able to offer this program in their school building,” said Stried. 

Yes, some high schools are now offering the class this semester and counting it as a credit.

The OHSAA believes this new online platform will help fix their current referee shortage.

Dr. Don Lewis, Chagrin Valley Conference Commissioner, worries about not having in-person learning available.

“You can know all the rules you want but unless you know where to go in the game, you will get discouraged very quickly,” said Lewis. 

However, the longtime basketball ref does like that the OHSAA is working to broaden their options and adapt with the times.    

“RefPrep is a fantastic program and I know the OHSAA is doing all they can to add officials in all sports,” said Lewis. 

You can check out RefPrep here.  

If you want to become an official, start by signing up here