Christa Hill, a freshman on the women's lacrosse team at Lee University, got her start as an official while in high school at Farragut (Tenn.) High School.

One of the biggest challenges that many youth lacrosse organizations have is finding enough officials for its games. Youth programs can help address that problem by developing a junior officiating program. Here are six tips to build a successful junior officiating program.

#1 Limit Their Costs

One of the biggest ways to deter a young person from getting involved is putting financial obstacles in the way. Provide them free training, cover their US Lacrosse membership, and work with officials in the area to contribute needed items such as old shirts, flags, cards and other gear.

#2 Keep Things Simple

Anything you can do to make it simpler for the junior officials, the better your chance of success. Find a time to train them that fits their schedule. Have someone in charge of the site to help control things on game day. Follow US Lacrosse youth rules to provide a strong foundation. Keep things consistent from game-to-game and event-to-event. You want them to focus on calling the game, not worrying about distractions.

#3 Work With Their Coaches

One of the best ways to recruit junior officials is to work directly with high school and club coaches. They have direct connections to the players and can explain both the benefits of becoming an official and their important role they will be serving. It’s a good idea to have coaches provide a letter of recommendation to help ensure that you will be getting young adults truly committed to this role.

#4 Find the Right Age

Junior officials programs sometimes go as young as 14 years old. That can work, but for many programs the best age to start is at 16 years old. For logistical purposes, you’re generally getting someone old enough that can drive themselves to their assigned games, but you’re also getting someone with a little more maturity to handle the challenge of being an official.

#5 Have an Adult Presence

You can either pair a junior official with a regular official or pair two junior officials together. There are benefits to each approach. Working with an adult helps them by having an experienced partner that can serve as a mentor. Having two junior officials allows them to work with peers and friends. If you are using junior officials working together, it’s a good idea to have an adult “floater” overseeing a couple of fields to provide an adult presence.

#6 Get Buy In

To be truly successful, you need buy-in from the coaches, officials and parents of everyone involved to help support these young officials. Officiating is not easy, and providing them support at all levels of the program will lead to a more successful outcome.

Charlie Obermayer is the senior manager of the officals development program for US Lacrosse.

US Lacrosse Officials Development

US Lacrosse offers online courses, development clinics, rules tests and more to help develop officials.

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