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‘Extreme’ need for more youth sports referees, umpires in Pennsylvania

By Alicia Vitarelli

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    PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Youth sports can be critical to a kid’s development, growth and confidence.

Sadly, right now we’re told there’s a critical need for referees, umpires and other sports officials to preside over their games.

It’s a trend that officials say is impacting us here in the Delaware Valley and across the nation.

“We’re hurting for officials,” says John Riley from Phoenixville. He reached out to Action News to get the word out about the “extreme” need for new officials across all sports, all ages, all games, and all locations.

“My first year I did 15 games or something like that,” Riley says. “I did 40 games this year for softball, which is a lot of games.”

Riley has been officiating volleyball and softball games for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, or PIAA, for the past 10 years.

In that time, he says he’s watched the pool of officials dwindle.

“We do high school kids and middle school kids,” Riley says. “Because of the shortage of officials, I’ve now started doing some college games because there’s a shortage of officials at colleges too.”

“I would say we’ve probably lost 30% of our officials,” Riley says. “We will lose two or three a year and only get one. The only thing that they will say to me is, ‘I don’t want to deal with the parents.'”

Riley says some adults don’t always follow the same rules of conduct as their kids.

If you are interested in becoming an official, you must be at least 16 years old.

You do have to be certified and registered.

And yes, you do get paid, but Riley says – “Do it for the kids.”

He says they need umpires to keep sports programs thriving.

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