Referee Shortages are the Last Thing we Need Right Now

I feel like every time I have opened my laptop in the last week, I have seen the same headline but in different formats: “Referee Shortage Leads to Cancelled Tournament.”

Why, oh WHY in 2022 are we still having to deal with this? Referee shortages are not due to lack of them, they are simply due to a lack of parent concern.

I for one know if I was a referee who was getting told I was crappy and should go live in a hole I would not want to come back and ref a game at said facility, or any game for that matter. Youth sports are the foundation for several children nationwide to grow up disciplined, respectful, and hard-working. But does that same statement hold up when the very parents who put their child in said sport are the ones yelling and mocking referees—who are often teenagers earning community service hours?

Stidham quit volunteering as a baseball umpire after heckling from parents and fans became unbearable.

In a New York Post article, a former referee by the name of Darryl Stidham states the following, ““Last year was my first year doing the state tournament. It was my goal to work in Williamsport within five years,” he said of the home of the Little League Baseball World Series.

Instead, Stidham says last week he quit for good.

“With the ever-present threat of violence, it’s just not worth it. I would prefer to stay out of the morgue than be at Williamsport.” Not just staying off the field but staying out of the MORGUE.

Stidham says the final comment from a parent saying, “it is your job to take the abuse from us,” set him off.

“That one comment really set me back … I have a full-time career and I’m just trying to give back to the community and the sport that effectively built me,” said Stidham, who earned $45 per game and worked the all-star circuit as a volunteer.

The same post article which can be found here states Stidham is not the only one. “In Mississippi, softball umpire Kristi Moore was allegedly punched by a woman wearing a mother of the year shirt. During a Little League game in Texas, an umpire was shoved to the ground by a coach. In Georgia, a basketball ref was attacked by players and required 30 stitches. And on Easter Sunday in Colorado, a ref was assaulted and video of the incident was posted to TikTok.”

But what should we do as planners?

Step in and stop the referee shortage.

Step in to make sure youth numbers do not dwindle. Step in to make sure these referees feel like humans and are treated in a kind manner. Step in and kick out said parent or fine parent/fan for their behavior. Step in to make sure the referee is doing okay. Step in and stop the game.

If we preach sportsmanship but do not act when these things happen, then do we deserve to be in such a position at all? It is up to all of us to band together and keep more of these things from happening. Parents and fans can get away with these things because they have never been given proper consequences from previous actions displayed at a tournament.

Would you rather have a parent mad at you, or no tournament to plan because the referee quit on you last minute due to harassment? Do not play into the referee shortage. Instead, instill event standards for all tournaments.