Umpire shortage causing cancelations and putting youth sports leagues at risk

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 9:54 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the shortage of officials in youth sports, but organizations say parents are also part of the problem. Now some athletic associations are taking a zero-tolerance approach.

“I don’t want my children or anyone else’s children to think it’s okay to speak to, curse out, berate or physically attack an umpire for a bad call,” said Billy Mayhall.

Mayhall’s son plays baseball for Troy Buchanan High School and he runs the organization St. Louis Youth Sports Outreach. He sees firsthand the impact of the umpire shortage.

“They’re struggling to get umpires on the field because, to be honest with you, nobody wants the abuse that comes with it nowadays,” he says.

Some high schools have been forced to cancel games, while others shift to just one umpire per game. At Athletic Boys Club (ABC) in St. Ann, they’re likely looking at no games on Saturdays due to the shortage.

“We don’t have nearly enough officials,” said Don Coffey the vice president of ABC which has teams starting at 4 -years-old up to high school ages.

In Arnold, the athletic association put out a new code of conduct that says any player, coach or parent guilty of breaking their rules will be thrown out of the game.

“We are very serious when it comes to our board members, field crew and umpire crew, and you will not be welcome at our facility if you cannot behave yourself appropriately. If you can’t contain yourself, it is in your best interest to remove yourself, go home,” the Arnold Athletic Association wrote on their social media page.

“I really hope a lot of people follow suit with what Arnold’s doing, take charge of your fields,” said Mayhall.

Greg Coleman’s son plays baseball for Francis Howell and wants to be an umpire, but Coleman says it worries him.

“He’s only 16-years-old. Making a bad call and somebody doesn’t agree with it and goes after him?” said Coleman.

While schools increase pay for umpires and the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) waives the $60 fee to join the association, some feel better behavior from spectators could go a long way to help with the problems.

“You’re going to make it where our children can’t play the game they love because you think little Johnny got a bad call,” said Mayhall.