All across Iowa and the nation, youth sports officials, umpires, and referees are quitting at record rates...and parents...IT'S YOUR FAULT.  Coaches, you're not helping the situation either. Now, is it fair to blame all parents and coaches? Have you ever heard of the saying "one bad egg spoils the whole dozen"? So yes, unfortunately, the number of out-of-control parents is growing and that ruins it for everyone. Especially, the kids. 

The umpire/refs crisis in Iowa and across the nation is REAL

Here's an unsettling statistic for you, according to a study, "80% of high school sports officials quit before their third year".  In a story on, Greg Davis, an umpire scheduler for USSSA said:

"Over the years, the behavior of the parents has continuously gotten worse.”

John Bedard has been volunteering with the Evansdale Youth Softball Association (EYSA) for over 30 years. "I will never quit umpiring. The kids and the game are too important. I am also proud to say every parent or coach that I've tossed from a game, earned it. Sad for the kids."  When he says they "earned it", I believe he means, he doesn't take ejecting parents or coaches lightly.

Who wants to get yelled at for doing something that you like doing?

Randy Lee, who has been umpiring and officiating for over 25 years (over 18 years at the high school level), says, "I love being around the kids. I know we don't get every call "right" but we don't do it on purpose. We need younger officials. People complain about how old some officials are but we don't have the numbers to replace them."

Sportsmanship, in general, seems to be receding

Justin Jacobs has been officiating games (primarily football and basketball) since 2001. Jacobs believes that there are many reasons why sportsmanship in youth sports is declining. "Officials are being ridiculed more and more.  A big reason involves people watching college and pro sports on TV. There are many camera angles, slow motion, and instant replay. You have rules experts and television commentators dissecting official's calls." 

 We won and it's the official's fault!

Jacobs went on to say, "there is a lot of talk about how sports build character, teach resilience, etc.  In addition, how often do we hear that kids need more "grit".  When we're attacking officials for judgment calls, that is doing the opposite. I coach too, and it's easy to blame officials for losing.  However, if you blame officials for losing, you need to credit them for winning too.  Would a team, coach, parent, or player ever say "We won because of the officials?  It can't work that way. It sends the wrong message to our youth when coaches and parents try to blame someone else for losing a game."

What happened to civility?

Check out this disturbing video (below) from Lakewood, Colorado that happened in 2019.  A brawl broke out at a little league game over a 13-year old umpire's call. You read that right, 13-YEARS OLD. The "adults" in this video should be ashamed. All of those grown men are "manly" enough to fist-fight other people, but they're too afraid to step up and umpire instead, they stick the teenager to do it, then they fight over his calls. Sickening.


That's right, I'm calling you out Waterloo Black Hawks hockey fans. When a call on the ice doesn't go their way, "Refs you suck!" can be heard chanted throughout Young Arena. I know most fans just think it's funny (or they paid their admission, so they can yell at the refs all they want), but the thing is, it's NOT FUNNY, it's downright embarrassing to the entire fan base. Remember, most USHL referees are almost as young as the players you're watching.

Long-time area youth baseball coach, T.J. Dodd summed it up best by saying:

"It's a real issue. I see it all the time. They deserve way more respect than they're getting. People act like these refs (umpires) have some sort of agenda or something. They're human, they make mistakes. Cut them some slack. It's just a game."


I also blame you "Beer league softball guy"

There's no one on Earth that could be more annoying than over-zealous "beer league softball guy", trying to live out their failed sports career, while drinking beer and launching home runs with $500 loaded composite bats. I've seen this at both the Waterloo softball complex and at the Birdsall complex in Cedar Falls, grown men berating umpires (some very young) to the point of quitting. It's really quite pathetic. Maybe that's why USA Softball is basically begging people to become umpires with no experience necessary. They're also making a major push to hire new high school officials.

What does the future of officiating have in store?

Lee mentioned that he can see a couple of things happening. "Kids playing without any spectators or kids playing scrimmages with the coaches making the calls. Either way, it would hurt the kids. I know parents spend a lot of time and money on their kids. Let them know you support them and have fun." 

Jacobs thinks, "going forward, some states have implemented laws to protect officials in cases of assault and harassment. I think that is a step in the right direction. It's also important for the sanctioning organizations to place a greater emphasis on sportsmanship. Plus, I do think there's going to be a need for an increase in game fees. Being paid more money may help recruit and retain officials."

Jacobs summed his thoughts up by saying: "It is completely possible to coach, cheer, and play with intensity and tenacity while maintaining positivity and good sportsmanship."

Amen brother, AMEN...

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