Alarming Anecdotes from Assignors/Officials
At MYAS, we are trying to do our part to positively impact a troubling trend: The shortage of game officials.
We are encouraging zero tolerance of umpires/officials abuse at events and communicating expectations of how to engage with umpires/officials. We also recently had over 400 umpires go through our own training, including 200 brand new ones. But my concern now is the same that's been for years. If negative issues and incidents continue, those new umpires will quit after they've hardly started.
But I wanted to share this email from one of our assignors recently:
FROM: Twin Cities Umpire Assignor
RE: Conduct of Parents/Spectators
I have spoken with multiple umpires over the past week that told me they are thinking about quitting due to how they are being treated by parents, some of these umpires are young guys with lots of promise. The overarching theme revolves around consistent negative comments from parents and a lack of control from the head coach over the parents of their team.
Remember, the head coach is responsible for the behavior of all coaches, players, and parents. If the umpire has too many issues with a parent and the head coach does not handle the situation, they have the authority to eject the head coach, and potentially forfeit the game for violating the published code of conduct.
That note from a local umpire assignor is heartbreaking to read in so many ways. But I have been officiating high school basketball for over 21 years, and I can vouch for the reflections and concerns of umpires/officials. But here's another illustration of the challenges from someone with an impeccable officiating resume. During an interview with KXNO in Des Moines, Iowa, John Higgins shared an experience when he offered to referee an AAU tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with his 15-year-old son, after someone backed out on short notice.
The tournament director, of course, was overjoyed since Higgins was a longtime NCAA official, with multiple Final Fours under his belt. Higgins described the level of competition as "mid-level," at best, and a game got very, very physical. A double flagrant foul and double technicals were issued. One player was not only physical but also abusive with his words.
Not a surprise, that team's coach was aggressive with his tone and his language during timeouts, and Higgins weighed assessing him a technical foul, though he decided against it.
"I was trying to be kind," Higgins told KXNO. "I wasn't trying to be the Division I official coming in to a freshman AAU game. I was just trying to fit in."
The team that prevailed included the most aggressive player, who had fouled out, and the aggressive coach. But the player walked up to Higgins, extended his middle finger and cursed at him. Higgins ejected that player from the rest of the tournament, and the coach also pressed the issue. Higgins ejected the coach, as well.
In a follow up interview from organizers, they discovered the aggressive player was the aggressive coach's son.
Higgins added that the coach's behavior ranks among the worst he's ever experienced — and he's officiated games that featured Bob Knight.
"Unfortunately, he's coaching the youth of today, which is sad," Higgins said. "It's just sad."
How many more of these examples and stories do we need to hear and see? It's extremely sad that as much attention that has been brought to this extreme shortage of officials and umpires that people still disregard and don't care about somebody else who is a human being, and the ramifications of their actions.
We wonder why associations and communities are stressing and scrambling because they can't find referees/umpires for their games.
Organizers are literally pulling parents from the sidelines and stands. Do you think that will make it better?
I often hear that referee/umpires "just need to understand the game better." I agree, there needs to be continued training and continued education, but that's not going to matter if those individuals don't continue as umpires and referees! Too many are leaving because of the badgering and the intimidating and questioning of every call.
But perhaps I'm too close to all this. Perhaps I need a different perspective.
What are YOU seeing on the sideline and from the stands? And, most important, what do you think are potential solutions?
Because a shortage of officials is a local and national crisis without many signs of hope.
Reminder: Gopher State Baseball League and any MYAS administered baseball tournaments are Youth 1st accredited leagues/events.