Minnesota Youth Athletics Services

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From Dawson's Desk : Partnership With Youth 1st And Minnesota Softball

At MYAS, we refuse to stand idly by, as the epidemic of abuse of officials/umpires continues in youth sports. We have teamed up with Minnesota Softball and Youth 1st to uphold the Youth 1st conduct policy to: "Remember... it's about the kids. I will... keep my competitive energy in check. I will always... treat officials and opponents with respect."

Teaming up, though, enables us to address one of the main challenges when incidents and issues do arise: Accountability.

When something happens, the local association addresses the matter, and nine times out of 10, someone in that association knows the person that has been reported or is being investigated. Then, ultimately, the result is a slap on the wrist, which adversely impacts the credibility of the association and does not mete meaningful consequences to those who violate policies intended to protect athletes, officials and others.

So MYAS, Minnesota Softball and Youth 1st have staffers who are a part of a Review Committee that evaluates concerns and incidents and makes decisions because, sometimes, the written rules of governing organizations like the National Federation of State High School Associations don't address specific situations.

Already this year, we've had over a dozen incidents that have risen to the level of needing the Review Committee.

When there is notification made that a team is under review, things become much more heightened, and it's a reminder that someone cannot freely berate an umpire. I had to talk with one coach who was part of a situation, where we got this long report from an umpire about the actions of this team and how it completely violates the code of conduct and the policies we have in place, and that coach told me that the parents were really nervous about the consequences impacting their team.

But why does it have to come to that?

I challenge people to reconsider and think about their role, and think about the perspective they should have, depending on where they're at as a fan, parent, coach, or umpire.

That's the thing, though. It's for everyone to reflect and think. Recently, Tony Schrepfer, MYAS's Director of Officiating, spoke to an umpire about how the umpire could have handled a situation differently and been more proactive to avoid a confrontation with a parent.

So there was a learning moment on that side, too. And that has to be understood, that umpires need to continue to be educated and trained too, so each can become better at his or her craft, as well. But in order for us to get the pool back up for officials and umpires, we have to give them grace. And that means at everything, including the "bigger" tournaments, where the stakes are perceived to be higher.

I know people have invested money and time, and resources to be a part of traveling sports. But that doesn't give anyone license to abuse and confront others, so there has to be accountability. 

At MYAS, one of our goals is to promote sportsmanship, and we want to be clear to those who walk into events understand their role and how they could conduct themselves. That's why we want to provide incentives to teams, regardless on how you compete at a tournament, where you actually can be rewarded and recognized for doing the right things, like showing good sportsmanship, showing good behavior, paying respect to officials and opponents. But if you go the opposite way, your team will receive a 'No," from officials or umpires, and your opposing coach.

Is this the final solution? No, but we hope it's a step in the right direction, and another example of trying to improve the culture and environment.

MYAS Executive Director
MYAS Executive Director
Youth Sports Done Right