Southeast Kansas student combats referee shortage

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A local high school student is choosing to enter a field most are getting away from.

Antonio Aita, 17, is a junior at Parsons High School, who’s says he’s been officiating competitive soccer games for more than seven years now.

He first took the responsibility of the whistle when he was just 10 years old, after suffering a season-ending injury playing peewee soccer.

Aita can now officiate any game in the U.S., at a club-level, after being certified last year through the United States Soccer Federation in Kansas. Today, he discussed the current nationwide referee shortage, as the game he was at would ideally be a three-man crew, but there were only two.

According to a February 2022 report from the U.S. National Federation of State High School Associations, more than 50,000 officials have left the profession since 2018.

“You know we want to be refereeing around 12 games a weekend, but we end up with 16 to 18 and so we are getting overworked and frustrated, but we love the game, and we are going to keep doing it so we can provide those opportunities and give back to the game,” said Aita.

Aita plans to continue his officiating career after high school, with hopes of one day becoming a professional MLS official.

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