Youth sports have an emerging problem: a shortage of people willing to serve as referees.
The shortage of officials is jeopardizing youth sports -- both locally and nationwide.
Advocates, boosters and schedulers say the top challenges to recruiting officials, and retaining them, are the time demands and the increased incidents of abuse from parents in the stands.
Those issues are seen firsthand by people like Thomas Jones, who has officiated youth football and baseball for 22 years.
Jones – who is a successful Gulf Coast Realtor by day -- says working a game takes about seven hours, all told, once you count the travel, preparation and wrapup.
He tells Newsradio 740 KTRH he also sees increasing incivility from parents, ranging from grownups wanting to charge the field to people shouting accusations of favoritism and incompetence as officials enter or exit the field.
Jones, undeterred, still goes out there anyway, season after season. He has seen the retention of referees and umpires decline, however, among newer officials who don’t think it’s worth another season of the hassle.
Proper staffing of officials for youth sports events has become more problematic as a result.
For the sake of young athletes, organizations are working to find and develop more officials -- while advocating for the adults in the stands to act like, well, adults.
The Texas Association of Sports Officials, for example, says it's working to attract more officials and retain them from season to season … and to better address the issue of fans who get out of hand.