What Are We Doing to Our Volunteers?

Last month’s issue of OnDeck seems to have struck a few nerves. Larry Cicchiello’s article written by an umpire who listened to a coach berate him after a close call brought a response from an individual who has been volunteering to umpire youth baseball games for years.  His story will make you shake your head at the state of youth sports.

I too am an umpire. Most games I umpire are volunteer. Not only do I not get paid but it cost money for gas food drinks and equipment. I probably spend a grand a year umpiring. Mostly little league and I believe little league should be volunteer. I travel hours away sometimes and volunteer 6 days a week. It’s s very thankless job. Some days I question why I do what I do. I had a very bad weekend where I was screamed at and verbally abused by parents and coaches. Then on one play the lad pulled his foot off on a force out when he caught the ball way before runner got there. You could only see it if you were right there. After 5 minutes of being verbally abused the kid stands up and says I pulled my foot. Leave the umpire alone so we can play. He is doing great job. Then turned around and apologized for his parents and coaches. He then gave me a hand shake. That one moment made it all worth it. I’ve had teams lose on close calls and just about every time the kids still tell me good job blue. That’s why we do it. Parents and coaches can be very bipolar. The same team ended up winning the game and after no apologies were given. However the coach said good game. I was ready to say so much but I swallowed my pride and said thanks. Volunteer or paid we do the best we can. If 10 people lined up on close play 5 would say safe 5 would say out. If you call it the other way the other team will complain. Please remember we are human. We have feelings and emotions too. We aren’t robots. If it wasn’t for us the kids couldn’t play. As I see it everyone wants to coach. It’s way harder to get umpires because we are abused. So remember that next time. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with our call. We all are entitled to our own opinions. But please show some respect when it doesn’t go your way. We get physically and verbally abused so your kids can play. We deserve the respect.

Shame on these parents and hats off to the young man who acted more mature than any of the grown-ups. And then this email came later the same day:

Good morning. After spending countless hours over 14 years in little league. not a thank you or no appreciation for all I have done. Please stop sending me your emails. It’s just a constant reminder of a political organization that I feel has turned into not for kids!!!!!

We responded back asking for a little more information. What could have gone so wrong in fourteen years to cause this dedicated volunteer so much heartache? Here is what he wrote back:

Personally. I feel sorry for a lot of kids! Little League Baseball was designed to be a fun learning, development, and most importantly sportsmanship!!!!!!
Fourteen years!! Crazy right? I kept asking myself why I continued to put myself through the continued headaches. There were years that we did not have enough board members to cover all positions. So I had to fill three different positions just so that kids could play. NOT TO FORGET my wife!!!!!! She also worked very hard.
It’s the parents!! The ones that come to the board for only one agenda. To put their child first. Then you have those that want to coach, manage, etc. And it was those Parents and Managers that I say were trying to relive their childhood out of their kids.
As an umpire I watched the fear in those kids while up at bat to that catcher, who just might not stop that one wild pitch. 
There is no fun anymore!!!! Especially for those that end up sitting on the bench because why???? Because they are not the coaches favorite’s. To this day!!!! I have those that now have grown up and some have kids of their own still call me coach…
Little League??? Often have to wonder. What is it designed for??? It is not all about winning!!! It’s not all about how bad you made that other team look. Kids!!!!! They end up going to schools together, friends. Yet when on different teams and to see and watch how coaches, parents behave in a manner unsatisfactory.
Youth baseball, soccer, football, softball, etc. are about community. We have an opportunity to act as a community to provide a safe and healthy fun, competitive, athletic outlet for our children by joining forces in a positive manner for a greater good. Too often we lose sight of this ideal and instead of bonding together, we tear each other apart with our pettiness. And now everyone suffers, especially the kids. Come on, people. We can do better than that.
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com


One Response

  1. […] may remember the article we included in this month’s OnDeck Newsletter, What are We Doing to Our Volunteers? The piece was centered around an email we received from a volunteer umpire who told the story of […]

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