By Ken Reed

Youth and high school sports officials (referees and umpires) are quitting at unprecedented rates due to the verbal and physical abuse they are increasingly receiving from “adults” (parents and coaches).

That abuse is a big reason so many states are now having trouble finding enough qualified officials to call the games that children play.

The increase in physical violence at youth and high school sporting events parallels the proliferation of our country’s win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mindset.

High school and youth sports officials usually get a small stipend for their services but when travel and equipment expenses are factored in, their take home pay is usually well below minimum wage.

Associated Press writer Paul Newberry recently had a powerful column about the exodus of youth and high school sports officials and the over-the-top parents and coaches driving them out.

“America is facing a crisis in prep and youth sports, where fewer and fewer people are willing to take on the thankless job of officiating games,” writes Newberry.

More than 70 percent of new referees in all sports quit the job within three years, according to the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). The chief cause? Pervasive abuse from parents and coaches.

Either respect for officials begins to go up or the number of games our high school and youth sports athletes get to play will go down. Virtually, every state in the country has seen a decline in the number of sports officials — for all sports — over the last decade.

Eliminating games will be the only solution if that trend isn’t reversed.

“And without us it’s just recess,” said Barry Mano, president of NASO.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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