We’ve seen the headlines across the country. Youth League Officials across America are facing extreme criticism and even outright assault in some cases.
Last week, we had a situation where a spectator allegedly threatened to “gut” a Little League umpire in Logan County. In different areas, I have seen stories of officials being attacked and threatened. And why? Over a game that very few people will care about within a year?
In some parts of the country, certain leagues are folding due to the lack of officials. I can’t blame them. In many cases, they get paid very little and are just trying to learn and get better at their craft. Trust me, a Major League Baseball level of umpire is not going to be calling a Little League game in Appalachia.
They’re human and will get some calls wrong. I’ve never met a perfect official or perfect coach or perfect player. Yes, I know that this is disturbing for some to hear, but that 10-year-old playing shortstop is likely not the next Barry Larkin.
I sincerely hope that every youth player in our area goes professional in every sport they can. But if we’re being honest, we also know that isn’t the reality. For many, youth leagues are as far as they’ll go. Fewer will continue playing beyond middle school. And only the few elite will play at college on any level. And if one makes it to any of the professional leagues they have achieved the almost impossible.
In reality most boys and girls have a limited time to play the sports they love. And at the youth league level, fun should be the main focus. Behind that is player growth and development. No one is going to be impressed with your 1st place Buddy League team when you were 12.
Now, let’s get to the thing I hear people say a lot.
“Those refs were cheating.”
I have seen many games at many different levels over my 45 years on this planet. I can only think of two instances ever where I felt like the officials honestly tried to help one team win. Out of the thousands of games that I have seen, that’s not a high percentage.
Now, are some officials not great? Sure. However, I am not out there doing it, and they’re out there trying and taking the abuse with it. Are some officials influenced by the crowd or coaches too much? Sure. But they are only human beings who can get caught up in the moment.
Who in their right mind would do a physically demanding job , get paid very little and suffer through verbal abuse for hours upon end to verbal abuse? Game officials.
Treat them well, because one day you may see your local league closing because there are no longer officials for games.