Western Slope in desperate need of prep sports officials as fall seasons approach

Cody Jones
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A referee watches during the Aspen vs. Basalt football game at Aspen High School on April 16, 2021.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

A lot of seemingly random things are in short supply these days — including sports officials.

Western Slope sporting events at the middle school and high school level are not far from a scenario where officials are absent as the area is in desperate need of officials.

Colorado-West Custom Sports’ Chuck Nissen assigns local officials to sporting events via the business entity and said the number of officials tends to vary year to year. This year officials are especially difficult to come by and time is running out for individuals to get CHSAA trained and registered in order to be certified before the upcoming 2021-2022 seasons.

Nissen said there are a wide range of reasons why the area is currently seeing a shortage of game officials.

“One reason people stop officiating is age and the younger generations (are) not signing up to be an official,” Nissen said. “It truly takes a person with patience and tolerance of many things to be a good long-term official.”

The officiating jobs that Nissen is looking to fill range in pay from $22.50 to $63 a game with the promise of flexible scheduling and hours.

Nissen has 30-plus years of officiating experience. He started officiating basketball games for extra money right out of high school. Nissen had no aspiration in the beginning to make officiating a career, rather he decided to officiate in order to make some quick money.

Soon, however, that quick money turned into a full-blown career of officiating.

Nissen has officiated everything from peewee basketball, middle school, high school and even at the college level for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Bob Richardson officiates football, baseball and basketball, and has been an official for the Glenwood Springs area for the past 10 years. Richardson is a Roaring Fork High School alumnus who started officiating summer league baseball when he was just 11 years old and has enjoyed it ever since.

Richardson sees a clear explanation for the reason why there is a shortage of officials, not only on the Western Slope, but nationwide.

“There’s been several issues brought to the light in the last few years,” Richardson said. “One being the behaviors of athletes, parents and fans toward officials. When you stop having fun because you aren’t being treated well, you have people decide they don’t want to do it anymore.

“The lack of pay also contributes to the shortage in officials,” he added. “The state of Colorado is in the bottom five of states when it comes to pay for officials.”

Richardson and Nissen both look past the lack of pay and the unjust treatment at times. To them, the benefits of officiating outweigh the negatives.

“It’s a great group of people to be with. We have fun as officials presenting the best games we can,” Richardson said. “I also do it for the kids. It’s a fun progression to see a kid grow from a sixth grader to starting on varsity at the high school level to some furthering their careers beyond high school. It’s cool to be a part of that.”

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an official, call 970-260-8522 or email or