Today’s Parents vs. Future Officials
There is constant chatter about umpires/referees around all sports. The conversation seems to be getting a little more attention as our culture evolves over the years. Is parent’s treatment of the current officials playing a role in discouraging young athletes into becoming involved as a part of the game they grew up loving to play? I’m sure this is a significant factor on how athletes see umpires now, but let’s look at all of the others.
Short-Handed Across the Country
The demand for officials across the country is exceeding the physical supply of them. Leagues around the country in all sport are suffering during the season to find multiple officials to regulate their sports game. Seeing it from a youth coach perspective, I got a good look at where the importance of umpires is put after receiving only one umpire to a usual two last season because of this shortage. A positive aspect that can be taken away from this can be that the increase in the interest in sports are growing so fast the umpire/officials can’t keep up with the curve. There are a lot of new tournaments that have been formed, and there are only so many umpires to go around. It’s currently a rarity and an added bonus to receive a proper two officials at a younger level, which isn’t benefiting our children’s play.
– Full seven-inning games
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– 2 umpires
– national media coverage
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Playing the Blame Game
It seems to become more acceptable in today’s generation of parents to blame anyone but their child for not performing well. Getting constantly yelled at by angry parents is something that has always periodically happened but not to the extent it has in recent years. Parents tend to put “blinders” on and have a natural bias when it comes to their child’s athletic ability. Though we all want our kids to grow up and become great at something they love to do, some need to realize that not every child is going to become a professional athlete after they play youth sports or even high school sports. It is difficult to have a desire to become an official or umpire in these circumstances because it seems that you are putting a target to get ridiculed by outsiders when merely trying to do your job. Also, for a lot of sports officials, this is their part-time job. They most likely just worked a full day or are working extra to make some extra for their family. Don’t be that person who always has something to say about their kid not getting a good call when they didn’t deserve it.
Pressure to Make Difficult Decisions
As softball players, we are put into many high-pressure situations in games that require immediate action. This trait, along with the knowledge of the game, is easily transferable to an officiating career. Making hard decisions is also just another part of life and growing up as an individual. However, there is added pressure as a sports official when making your choices result in immediate retaliation from parents and/or coaches. This not only makes their job harder, it is merely just an annoyance to deal with. I’ve taken away one major courtesy as I grew up playing sports, nobody talks to the umpires/officials but the coach. I even continue to use this as a philosophy in my youth teams. I believe it’s a respectful part of the game of sport which also puts a lot more trust in the coach themselves to stand up for their players in those circumstances. If this way of thinking gets passed from the players to the parents, the season and team culture will be so much more enjoyable for everyone. Coaches are also put in these intense situations and rapid decision making every match-up, so they are aware of the scrutiny officials are under.
Verbally Abusive Parents
If you take a step back as a student/parent, it will be a little easier to see from an official’s perspective. Imagine trying to concentrate on a project either at school or work, but every time you decide to change that one consumer doesn’t like, you get screamed at. Even if it had nothing to do with you, making this decision or following protocol, multiple people are now screaming, even booing at you. That specific scenario sounds like a very toxic and discouraging work environment, now think of a softball game. The umpire calls a ball that should be a strike, and it results in a walk, and now 12 parents are yelling from the stands about how awful the umpire is. Yes, umpires make mistakes as we all do. I think there are two critical things to take away from all this is: One, to remember that officials are learning just as the children are learning the sport, especially at the youth level. Two, it sets a bad example for following rules and almost labels it acceptable to lash out when things don’t go your way.