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Heckling and verbal abuse to blame for umpire shortage in Waterloo Region


Recreational sports groups are voicing their concerns over a shortage of umpires and in-game officials for soccer, baseball and softball games.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Umpires Association coordinates with fastpitch softball leagues across Waterloo Region.

President Trevor Topping said they’ve been dealing with an umpire shortage for about a decade.

“It causes a lot of stress,” Topping told CTV News. “We’re also seeing some growth in the game. That’s not a bad thing, but the problem is the umpires aren’t growing at the same rate.”

The association said they’re 10 to 15 umpires short of the pool they prefer to have heading into the season. Topping explained that many have retired over the past few years, and they haven’t taken in enough new umpires to fill the void. He adds that some new umpires have been recruited, but there’s a catch.

“Some of them are quite young, 13 or 14-years-old,” Topping said. “You can’t put them in an adult game. You’re limited in how you use them.”

The Waterloo Minor Baseball Association also told CTV News it’s dealing with a drop-off in umpire recruitment.

The pain is felt beyond the baseball diamond. The Waterloo Minor Soccer Association is reporting a significant decline in match officials.

Interim executive director Kristian Nielsen said the association had 45 officials last year and only 10 are returning for another season.

Nielsen blames heckling and verbal harassment as the leading cause.

“By far the majority of it we believe has to do with the interactions on the field between the players, the parents on the sidelines and the coaches,” Nielsen said. “The work environment is not always great and therefore they choose not to return the following season.”

The Kitchener-Waterloo Umpires Association brought up similar issues.

“[Parents are] screaming and yelling about calls. I’ve been umpiring this game for 35 years. A newer umpire coming in might not be able to handle it,” Topping said.

He added that it’s up to players, coaches and parents to create a safer environment for umpires.

Both groups warn the shortage could have an impact on games and scheduling throughout the summer.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Umpires Association said they’ll look for fill-ins from other associations outside the region if necessary.

Despite the shortage, Waterloo Minor Soccer won’t be taking on any new recruits this close to the season because they wouldn’t have the time, or the resources, to train new match officials.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Umpires Association said it’s willing to work with anyone interested and some positions can pay upwards of $90 per game.

More information on umpire recruitment can be found online. Top Stories

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