THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
An article back in June published in the Washington Post by Nick Eilerson detailed the pandemic that is plaguing our youth, yet getting no attention: the shortage of sports officials.
Specifically, the article's focus makes the claim that the sole reason that the number of officials is dwindling is due to the verbal abuse officials take from players, coaches, parents, and fans. And it's very difficult to argue against any of it.
Without diving too deep into it, the statistics provided in the article show some serious issues based on the number of officials that quit officiating at various points throughout their tenures. The attrition rate from the first year of an official's career through his seventh is astounding. Equally as appalling is when the sexism card is played on female officials, which is also referenced in the article.
But there are a few points in the article that do not receive the credit they deserve.
First, a small portion of the article begins to examine how the school administrators are equally as guilty as any other party to cause this problem to expand. The administrators (and consequently, the coaches, followed by parents and players) care more about wins and losses and the pride the school must feel rather than their actual goal of providing a positive educational experience to the local youth.
We see this in media just as frequently, but we don't pay much attention to it for various reasons. Anytime we watch a television show or a movie that focuses on the importance of winning the big high school football game, we are seeing the archetype of the problem. In a nutshell, athletics in school (be it college, high school, or anything else) are meant to be a learning experience for kids/players, not a vehicle to achieve the superficial status that means nothing at the scholastic level. Simply stated, let the kids play; don't force them to choke because you want them to win a useless state championship.
There are a few other points that need emphasis as well. Mimicry of professionals as viewed from television provides more reasons for youth to imitate what they see from their idols. The number of travel leagues in each sport create both sociological and practical issues that divide people rather than unite them.
But another point to which I could relate is the fact that coaches, schools, and leagues can now dictate in certain circumstances which officials can work which games. In other words, a school can ban an official from working their games simply because they don't agree with a call that official may have made. What's worse is that the officiating organization allows this due to a lack of leverage in negotiations and a need to provide opportunities for officials to work.
The fact of the matter is that we have a problem regarding the number of officials, and that problem isn't going away anytime soon.