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Wanted, needed: Officials, coaches


May 15, 2020

With the current lull in the sports world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a good time to discuss two dire needs in the Minnesota sports world: referees and coaches.

Across the state, the Minnesota State High School League and other sports leagues are begging for people to become officials and many local school districts are struggling to find not just qualified coaches, but coaches in general.

As a former high school coach, I’ve seen firsthand the struggle of finding officials. In the spring many umpires are often umpiring two games an evening, sometimes at different locations. Many times activity directors will work with each other to bring three or more teams to one location so the same set of umpires can work multiple games in an evening to ensure their high school’s team is able to get in a full slate of games.

Spring sports run into far more issues with cancellations. Very seldom are football, hockey, basketball or other sports canceled due to weather. In the spring, hardly a week goes by where golf, track, baseball, boys tennis, softball or any other spring sport is not canceled. Schools are then saddled with trying to get umpires and other game officials rescheduled. Add in the fact that most of our officials have other full-time jobs and you can see how difficult it is for many of them to commit to being available almost every afternoon or evening.

Last season I had the chance to chat with many softball umpires and all of them sang the same tune — there are not enough umpires and many of those that are still umpiring are getting long in the tooth and are close to hanging up the clicker. That’s scary. The loss of just two or three umpires in our area can affect many schools.

In talking with coaches in other sports, they say the same thing is happening. There are fewer officials and it is starting to affect when games are played.

Some football teams are now playing on Thursday nights or Saturdays versus the traditional Friday night because there just are not enough football officials to go around.

Schools also struggle with a lack of coaches applying for jobs. Gone are the days of 5-10 candidates applying for positions as coaches. More often than not schools struggle to get more than a couple candidates and oftentimes the people applying have little to no experience above a grade-school or middle-school level.

I talked with a longtime softball coach in the area this spring and, prior to the pandemic, he still had not found an assistant coach. That puts pressure on a coach to do everything and that is not fair to the kids.

So, here’s my pitch to our Pine Knot readers: Think of becoming an official or a coach. In the case of springtime officials, there are a multitude of opportunities. In baseball and softball you can umpire junior varsity or varsity games almost every day of the week. You get paid a stipend and it can add up by the end of the season. It is a nice way to give back to the kids, make a little money, and stay close to the game. I am pretty confident the same can be said of baseball and other spring sports.

If you don’t feel you want to become an official, think of becoming a coach. We have many capable and knowledgeable people in our area who would be an asset to any program. If you think you may have something to add, pick up the phone and call an activities director and start asking how you can get involved. You might be surprised at what’s available and how you can help.

WKLK radio personality Kerry Rodd writes sports for the Pine Knot News.


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