TOPEKA (KSNT)- Kansas has a problem with high school sports. More specifically, they’re having a hard time finding officials.
“We just don’t have enough officials,” Jeff Freeman, a KSHSAA Area Supervisor of Officials said.
He says it’s simple.
“There’s a bigger demand then we have a supply for,” Freeman said.
This week in Topeka youth baseball and softball games were cancelled because umpires couldn’t be found. The issue could soon be at the high school level.
Last week in Indiana from Tuesday to Thursday the state had to cancel 90 high school baseball and softball games due to a lack of officials.
Over the last decade in Kansas, the number of officials has dropped from 4,200 to 3,193. It’s a loss of 23.8% and local teams are feeling the affects.
“We have already had some games in Kansas high school competition that have had to be canceled because of no officials,” KSHSAA assistant executive director Jeremy Holaday said.
Why is this issue emerging now?
“Fan behavior is the number one reason why officials decide to leave the sport,” Holaday said.
A 2020 survey from ‘Officially Human’ found that verbal abuse from fans and coaches are the top reasons why officials quit.
“”How many jobs can you go to and get yelled at for what I call a perceived error?” K-State assistant director of intramural sports Armando Espinoza said.
The problem goes deeper than dealing with unhappy fans. It’s a money issue, too.
“Like so many things in life, it comes down to money,” Freeman said. “Schools are just going to have to pay more.”
In the meantime, the K-State rec center is trying to do their part to reload the stock of officials.
“They start here looking for a part-time job, then they realize with this training, I can go out and do this serious form,” Espinoza said.
KSHSAA says with proper education and training, officials could even be in high school.
The goal would be that some of these high school kids could work a junior high game,” Holaday said.
If the number of KSHSAA officials continues to fall… big trouble could be on the way.
“Without officiating it’s just recess,” Freeman said. “If that gets to be the case where we don’t have officials, we’re not going to have games. Period.”