Examining the Impact of the Umpire Shortage on the Kansas City Area

KANSAS CITY, Missouri—

Amateur sport is tackling a new problem on the field, the diamond, the field and the court.

The list of referees, officials and referees is shrinking.

IThis impacts the present and the future of what youth, club and high school games will look like.

KSHB 41 takes this subject at 360°.

In this story you will hear:

  • Two current referees
  • A dispatcher of officials in our region
  • A national director of high school officials
  • Two high school coaches
  • A sports director
  • A parent

Two referees notice changes in their industry

Bill Hicks has been a referee for decades. Now 74, he says his football teams are getting older and smaller.

“I’ve had several sub-college games this year where normally we’d have a four-person team to work on those games, and there’s only three of us available to work on them,” he said.

Hicks said college football pay in the Kansas City area is about $90 to $100 a game — if you can get a primary assignment.

“There are a lot of part-time jobs that don’t pay as well as officials’ salaries,” he said. “If you work three hours on a Friday night for a college football game, you make at least $30 an hour.”

KSHB 41 also caught up with John Hatfield on the softball field in Weston.

“No one is going to be perfect, but we’re here to help the sport and because we love it,” Hatfield said. “That’s why the referees are here.”

Hatfield said he’s noticed the referee pipeline is drying up.

“We’ve done a very, very poor job of recruiting for the past two years, so now that these former officials are coming out, we don’t have anyone to fill the void,” he said.

A veteran official assigner

John Dehan assigns leaders to 45 Kansas City area high schools – it’s in his blood.

“I’m a second-generation sports manager,” he said. “My dad introduced me to this when I was in high school in 1983. My mom went to one of his games once, and never went to see me officiate, because she didn’t want anyone messing around. one shouts at his son as they shouted at him. her husband.”

Dehan points to abusive behavior by parents and bystanders as another reason for the shortage.

“My wife took my three kids to a game once, came home from the game, and my three kids came up to me and gave me a hug and said, ‘Dad, are they yelling at you? like this every game??” Dehan said.

Dehan says that in Kansas there were about 2,300 basketball umpires statewide. 500 left over a four-year period.

This follows nationally, as an NFHS survey reported that more than 50,000 officials left high school sports in the past five years.

Director of Arbitration of the National Federation of Associations of State High Schools

Dana Papaps is the Director of Arbitration for the National Federation of State High School Associations.

She says recruitment, retention and the right training tools are key right now.

“A lot of it is interpersonal skills, which are a little harder to teach, because it’s a wild card,” she said. “You can’t control what’s going to happen in the stands or in the mouths of the coaches.”

Papaps also said referees are used at all levels of sport, which has an impact on the industry.

Kansas and Missouri side coaches

KSHB 41 also spoke with Bailee Giger, who is the head coach of West Platte Softball.

“If we don’t have referees, we can’t play our game,” she said.

She says she is worried about the present and the future of refereeing.

“As a coach, I’m not perfect,” she said. “I make calls that not every parent will agree with, but I can see what a difficult career it would be to tackle when you see the behaviors that are being spotlighted.”

On the Kansas side, Craig Hanzel is the head coach of the Atchison boys.

The team recently had to postpone a game because there were not enough officials available.

“This is the first year we had to reschedule a game,” Hanzel said. “Last year we had a few games – one or two – where there were two officials.

Still, football usually has a team of three referees.

“We weren’t sure we were going to come tonight, there was talk this morning of maybe delaying this game because of the official,” Hanzel said.

Parents of student-athletes

Back in Missouri, Aubree Harsh is a relative of West Platte Softball and witnessed fan behavior.

“I would say when you’re sitting there, it’s disheartening and awful to see someone treat a human being who’s just making calls, knocking calls, whatever so our kids can play the game,” said she declared. “They get a lot of fun out of it.”

Harsh played, refereed and watched in the stands. She worries about what her children will experience when they grow up.

“Our shortage is so bad, and it’s like, if it’s bad, do it, well I don’t want to do it, then shut your mouth and sit here and watch our children play, because one day , our kids can’t play,” she said.

Nationally, initiatives and campaigns are in place to teach refereeing.

Local schools offer classes, but everyone KSHB 41 spoke to said teaching players, coaches and parents about fair play doesn’t start at the high school level – it’s also at the level. young people and clubs.

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