Can umpires make you a better communicator?

What if parents walked a mile in umpire shoes ?

Published on November 21, 2019
By Charles McAtee, APR

In the latest incidents of sports parents acting like jerks, two recent episodes demonstrate why youth sports is, unfortunately, catching up with the broader culture.

Anger seems to be the dominant emotion, and I’m afraid of what our kids are learning.

The first chapter unfolded in Lakeland, Florida last weekend when a man punched a baseball umpire. After the game!


Apparently, he didn’t like a call that went against his nephew’s team, and he felt the need to express his dissatisfaction to a Little League umpire.

While the article doesn’t say how old the kids were, does it really matter? It also doesn’t say whether the umpire was paid for his work, or if he was a volunteer.

Again, does it matter?

They’re kids. It’s a game!

We’re not ‘gonna take it

The second incident comes courtesy of “adults” in Newport Beach, Calif. While this one was captured on video (of course), I’m guessing there’s more to the story that we don’t see.

It appears to me that the umpire was trying to act professional and get people to calm down. But the “adults” were having none of it.

While talking to fans is not a best practice for umpires, it’s likely this wasn’t the only thing that had occurred during this game. I’m guessing the heckling had gone on for several innings.

In my short experience as an umpire, I make it a point not to talk with fans. Nothing good can happen. If someone is getting mouthy, I remind the coaches it’s their responsibility to control their fans.

Maybe this guy had already done that. Maybe the coaches didn’t care.

Again, does it really matter?

They’re kids. It’s a game!

A mile in my shoes

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently started umpiring baseball at a local youth league. I love baseball and it’s a small way to give back to the community.

Which got me thinking… what if youth leagues required parents to umpire one game as a condition of playing in the league? How would that change their actions at the ballpark?

From where I stand, there are several benefits:

  • It would force the parents to at least familiarize themselves with the actual rules. Too many times parents (and coaches) don’t even know the basic rules, let alone more complicated ones like the infield fly rule.
  • It would demonstrate how hard it is to call a game. Whether it’s 40 degrees and the wind is blowing, or it’s 95 degrees in the shade, you have to maintain your focus. You never know when you’ll be on the spot.
  • While not every league pays umpires, the parents who do get paid will quickly realize that umpires are not trying to dictate the outcome of the game. Especially not for $25 or $30.

Finally, parents would learn the most important lesson:

They’re kids. It’s a game!