The Kern County Officials Association is putting out its annual call for new referees and umpires.

New KCOA president Randy Horne said the association especially needs help in four sports: football, soccer, baseball and softball.

"We need bodies in all sports, but those would be the top four," Horne said.

"The worst-case scenario for us is that we're running one-man crews for (freshman or junior varsity) baseball and softball and we're using some guys on varsity football games that don't have much experience."

Those interested in becoming an official can contact the KCOA through its website, , or via phone at (661) 633-3559.

Officials must pay for their own equipment and pay a nominal fee to belong to the KCOA, and they must attend 8-10 training classes. The KCOA's football classes are in late July.

"Even with the economy downturn, it's always been a difficult position to recruit," Horne said. "It's just a difficult role, period. It's not a high-paying job, and it's not one where you're always well-liked."

Officials are paid per game, with the range depending on the sport, level of the game (freshman, JV, varsity) and experience level. Horne said there are additional benefits.

"The reward is that you're giving back to the community," he said. "You do it because you love the sport and being part of a youth program, either through high schools or youth leagues. And it lets you stay in the game."