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The ball diamonds and basketball courts have been eerily silent the last few months.  While the majors have made an appearance, the world of youth sports is finally starting to make a plan to return.  Some of us will breathe a sign of relief that some things are slowing returning to normal.  What if there are some parts of normal that we don’t need anymore?

The number of youth sports officials has declined across the US

If you know me in real life, you will see me at the local football game every Friday night in the fall.  I am tasked with supervision as a school administrator.  My job duties include: ensuring the officials have an ample supply of Gatorade, supervising the opposing team bleachers to make sure the fans aren’t too rowdy, and encouraging litterers to pick up their empty popcorn bags.  

I love our team, our students, and seeing them compete. I’m not always in love with how the people in the stands behave. To be fair, I’ve heard fans on both sides of the field say things that would get them bounced out of a monster truck rally.  Believe it or not, I’ve escorted parents out of junior high girls basketball games because of foul language directed at the officials.

The Youth Sport “Official” Stats

The number of officials is declining.  Not only in my home state of Illinois but also across the country. There’s been a 20% decrease in the last five years.  Similar declines have occurred in the states of Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oregon, and Ohio.

Why the shortage?  This will not come as a shock to you.  The treatment, or more appropriately the mistreatment of youth sports officials, is one of the number one reasons that they decide to hang up the stripes.  

The youth sports officials that we have on the field of play are also aging. Not enough young people are entering the ranks.  Before we start blaming the “lazy generation” I want to ask you a question.  Would YOU want that job?  Believe me.  I tried.  My first officiating gig was in high school for the YMCA 8th grade soccer league.  The goalie, who didn’t like my call, cussed me out.  I carded him. He cried.  His parents yelled at me.  Thanks, but no thanks.  

Return to play

The time to return to the stands may be on the horizon.  If we ever are allowed to congregate to cheer on our kids, can we also remember our manners?  I’m not even asking you to be nice.  I’m asking you to be decent. It seems bizarre but if you feel the need to curse out an official for a bad call, here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • If you must display your displeasure at a call, use “Oh balderdash!” instead of the b-word you were planning on using.  It’s nice and chewy word.  I also think it will make you sound quite distinguished.
  • If the officials can hear you, so can your kids.  And, your kids are likely embarrassed.  If not, you’ve just taught them it’s okay to manage their emotions by verbally vomiting profanities all over a gymnasium.  
  • If you really CAN do it better, call your local high school athletic director. He or she can get you hooked up with an officials training program

All joking aside, can’t we all just get along? Men and women sign up to officiate our kid’s contests for the love of the game. Isn’t it time we show them some in return?

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