Anyone who's been around youth sports knows it can get heated sometimes with the officials and the parents. Is that leading to a shortage of officials?
A recent public service announcement has a little league kid yelling at his dad in the stands. "C'mon dad! Is that the best you can do? That's pathetic! I don't even know why you bothered showing up! Why can't you be more like Jimmy's dad? All the other parents are going to laugh at you. You make me sick!"
It's a funny, yet poignant, PSA addressing parents behavior at youth sporting events.
Some say verbal abuse of officials at youth sporting events from parents and coaches is causing a referee shortage in some parts of the country.
In New York, for example, there's been a declaration of a problem, a shortage of officials and a call for help.
"There's pressure from coaches, parents and there's aggravation involved," said Howie Green, high school sports official.
A simple search of youth sports and officials will bring up countless articles of shortages and abuse of officials that's creating a smaller pool of officials in some areas.
"Travel ball for some reason has the attitude of being more competitive. So you're going to have more aggressive coaches and players and parents out there. Parents are spending a lot of money to put there child out there on a travel ball team. So they have expectations going into it that maybe their child should play more or should bat in a different order. When that doesn't happen they get to thinking maybe they're wasting their time and money, so they get a little attitude about things and the only way they can do that is to take it out on the umpire," said Kenny King, umpire-in-charge at Bossier Little League.
With that said, King believes experience is key in handling situations on the field.
"A seasoned umpire knows how to control the coach the team and the fans. If you get a younger guy out there that's maybe not as seasoned, he may let some of the comments from the fans get to him. And once you start chattering with a parent it just escalates," said King
As for an umpire shortage at Bossier Little League, which had about 1,000 kids playing this season, league president David Szwak said they don't have a shortage because they pay well and they have a very specific code of conduct. The U-I-C or umpire in charge agrees.
"Out here, specifically at Bossier Little League, if an umpire encounters an unruly parent or fan we just simply walk over to the coach of the team that the fan is rooting for and just ask them to calm them down. We give them one chance to calm them down and quiet them. If they don't then we take over and generally ask them to leave the park. Fortunately, for us that's always worked. We've never had to take the next step which would be calling law enforcement to have them come and escort them off the field," said King.
Bossier Little League officials have a clinic about a month before the baseball season begins. They teach the umpires about on the field techniques for making calls, ignoring comments from off the field and not getting into a discussion with any of the fans or parents because it only fuels the fire.