OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Spring is here and that means youth sports like softball and baseball are filling up the diamonds around the metro. But the roster for available umpires in the metro is striking out.
The man behind the mask at the Premier Sports Officials Association in the metro says when it comes to youth sports, 99% of the parents, fans, and coaches behave themselves.
“Unfortunately those one percent incidents do happen,” said Sean Johnston of Premier Sports Officials Association. “It does scare some people away and scares some umpires not to come back.”
Some young umpires agree. Rowdy parents can take a toll on umps, many of who were players themselves until recently.
“I’ve had a couple calls where there have been fans that have come out on the field and confronted me,” said Tanner Cissell, who has been umpiring for nine years. “All you can do is keep the game going.”
“Especially with the ump shortage, they get mad about calls on the base paths, we don’t have an umpire out there, only behind home plate, sometimes we can’t see all that,” said Logan Godfrey, who has also been umpiring since his teenage years. “That’s basically the main thing. People don’t want to get hazed by their parents.”
Organizations like PSOA, Metro Umpires, and Strike Zone Academy focus on education for umpires, coaches, and parents. They all want to find ways to keep the kids the center of attention.
“Usually before the game I do a good job talking to the coaches, discussing about how the games gonna go, making sure they’re letting the kids hustle on and off the field,” said KC Siwa, who is in his tenth season umpiring . “I tell them if they have any questions, talk to me in between innings, don’t start drama in the middle of the innings, and that’s worked out for nine years now so I haven’t run into any of those problems yet. ”
The umpiring shortage is a national problem. The pandemic also may have thinned numbers in recent years, so umpiring organizations have to keep recruiting young umpires, offering training and good pay. An umpire can make $25 to $30 an hour for youth levels, and up to $75 an hour for high school level games.
“Number one, we try to find people who love the game,” Johnston said. “Second one, we love this time of year as a group because the college kids are coming home. College kids are looking for summer jobs.”
Johnston adds that working with coaches and parents helps, too, reminding them that everyone makes mistakes. In developing umpires, new or experienced, he focuses on continuous training.
While some areas around the country have had to cancel games because of a shortage of umpires, he said the metro has weathered the storm for now.
“We have been able to play every single game this year,” Johnston said. “Now we’re trying to get the numbers back up so we can get the number of sports officials needed to keep all games safe and fair.”
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