Brandon Warr 

Times Staff Writer

 

Recently, one of the most disturbing things that could be witnessed in youth sports occurred at a baseball game  in Lakewood, Colo. 

On Saturday, June 15, a dozen or so parents stepped onto a baseball field at Westgate Elementary School and started to take their frustrations out on each other, because they were upset by how the umpire was calling the game.

It wasn’t a 14-15-year-old's baseball game or even a high school contest — but a game of 7 year olds that was being officiated by a 13-year-old umpire.

Everyone on the field that unfortunate Saturday was a child, still learning the game of baseball — and they may never want to play or officiate the game ever again.

Josh Cordova was that 13-year-old umpire who recently got a ton of support from Major League Baseball umpires and the Colorado Rockies — who let him be an honorary umpire, hanging out in the Coors Field locker room and helping with pre-game lineup talks on the diamond for a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The reason Cordova got so much support was because a video was taken from the June 15 game that went viral on the internet. 

It’s understandable, to a point, that parents want their children to have the best opportunity to succeed, but it's important to understand: It’s just a game.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only 2.9 percent of high school athletes will know what it feels like to play baseball at the Division III level, and only 2.2 percent will ever know how it feels to say they are a Division I or II NCAA baseball athlete.

With most children’s baseball careers ending after high school, it is important that coaches and parents teach their players the life lessons that can come from playing team sports.

One of the most important lessons comes from officiating, and involves calls with which one may not agree. Not everything will go your way in life.

Adults should know as much. Everyone has had a time when something didn’t go their way— whether it be not getting a job they wanted, their car breaking down at the worst possible moment, or even losing a loved one unexpectedly. 

Everyone overcomes difficult times in different ways. However, when a child is present it is important to set a good example on how to deal with that situation, so they can grow and become better people. 

If a parent or coach belittles an official in front of a child, they are teaching them it is OK to be disrespectful to authority figures. And while the worst that could happen to a parent is being banned from a game, if a player belittles an official they could be kicked out of the game, be suspended for multiple games or the entire season.

The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) handbook states, “If a student is ejected from a contest for the third time during that season, it will result in a review of the student's future eligibility by the CHSAA Commissioner.” 

So while a parent getting “caught up in the heat of the moment” may only result in banishment from a contest, a child reacting in the same way could result in him never playing the sport he loves again — or any sport, for that matter.

Sit back and think for a second, when has belittling an official ever resulted in that person changing their decision? It never happens. It only frustrates the official even more.

A recent article written by Kate Thayer for the Chicago Tribune noted that in recent years, more than 87 percent of officials in youth sports experienced verbal abuse by coaches and spectators, resulting in officials quitting because they didn’t want to take the belittling anymore. 

According to the National Federation of State High School Association, nearly 80 percent of high school officials quit before their third year. 

This is something that has also affected sporting events in the Gunnison Valley.

“The reason we had trouble getting referees for our games wasn’t because of our crowd, but because there is a shortage of referees,” said Gunnison High School Athletic Director Dave Uhrig. “When you talk to the referees, the way they are treated is definitely a reason people don’t like doing it. It is not their main job, it’s only for the love of the sport. They don’t get paid that much when you consider the travel and the time they have to spend away from their families on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Uhrig also noted that during basketball season, he was told eight schools had to reschedule their night games because of the shortage.

Crested Butte Athletic Director Jarrod Hinton hasn’t had trouble finding referees. However, he has a small pool of referees he uses, and the majority of the referees are older. 

“There is not much youth in the profession,” stated Hinton.

So while officials may make mistakes from time to time, it's important to remember — again: It’s just a game.  

 

(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or brandon@gunnisontimes.com.)