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Combatting a Nationwide Official Shortage in Youth Sports

Sporting official standing on the sidelines of a youth football game.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the nation has lost around 50,000 umpires and referees since 2019.

It’s reasonable to assume that COVID-19 has played a considerable role in this decrease— and to some extent, it has. However, the pandemic is not the largest contributing factor.

Youth sports officials themselves are citing mistreatment from both coaches and parents as the main reason for them calling it quits.

It seems that behavior from the stands and sidelines is getting a bit out of hand.

Sporting Organizations Are Taking a Stand

The New York Times reported that more than 70 percent of new officials in all sports quit within three years which is not a good thing for large sporting organizations around the country.

One of Peopletrail’s valued partners, the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO), claims abuse from fans, parents, and coaches is only getting worse. As a result, this nearly 15,000-member organization has begun putting pressure on schools and other institutions in Texas to set expectations with coaches and spectators. If no changes are made, TASO will stop sending its officials to games.

Other organizations are beginning to follow suit, encouraging people to speak up and out against harassment and other threatening behavior toward sporting officials.

Working Towards a Solution

This issue is made a little more complicated due to the fact that officials are being mistreated by both fans and coaches.

When it comes to fans, any consequence for misconduct is often hard to enforce. Perhaps fans can be banned by schools and venues, but for that to be the case, these institutions need formal policies and protocols as well as attentive security at events. Such things require a greater expenditure of time and resources.

When it comes to coaches, behavior management tends to be a little easier as coaches are often held to a higher standard of conduct than the average spectator. Many sporting groups also require their coaches to undergo background screening before they are able to take to the field with their team. Despite these efforts, however, there are still frequent cases of misconduct by coaches toward referees.

Making Sporting Safer

At Peopletrail, we work with sporting organizations of all kinds, performing background checks on coaches, officials, and other administrative personnel. Our goal is to encourage the best possible experience for everyone involved, and safety is the first step to achieving that.

While proper screening can help prevent catastrophe on and off the field of play, it can’t influence the behavior of fans in the stands or personnel on the sidelines. For this reason, we stand by our valued partners in raising awareness of this issue. The culture of sports, though competitive, should also be a culture of mutual respect and good conduct. This culture extends far beyond the athletes and includes coaches, officials, fans, and yes, parents of players.

Like many others, we want officials to feel safe and comfortable doing what they are passionate about doing— maintaining the integrity of gameplay. Despite the way a call may go, we can still be on their team.

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