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Officials shortage alarming

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“Hey, Blue!”

It’s a far-too familiar shout being heard all across the softball and baseball fields.

Truth be told, it’s also a common chant that can be noticed on even more non-traditional sports such as basketball and football, to name just a few, as well, when it comes to the trying to gain the notice of game officials. The lone oddball of the bunch is soccer. When it comes to getting the attention of that game’s ruling authorities, it’s more likely the address will come in the form of “Mr., Mrs. Ms or Miss Official” when posting a potential argument.

Whatever the cat call, more times than not the chant is either ignored completely or at least acknowledged slightly on the part of the game official. Most of the time, the cry falls on deaf ears as officials remain true to their unwritten code of failing to make any noticeable response.

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These days, however, it’s become more common for the shouts to be rendered on no ears at all.

While nowhere close to being as much as a crisis as has been the health-related issue concerning COVID-19 over the past year-plus that continues to haunt practically every sports-related event, the lack of game officials in general is alarming to say the least.

You name the sport. You select the officials association. You ask any of the assigning organizations. They will all, practically in unison, acknowledge the overwhelming shortage of game authorities practically across the board.

In all honesty, the knack of officiating contests is one not made for all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It takes a special breed to spend time out on the respective fields of play trying to please half the ones participating as well as following the action only half the time at best. Every strike call, every ball call, every out, every safe, every whistle and every penalty flag that does or doesn’t fall, part of the ones directly involved will have something negative to reveal. It remains one of the most thankless positions available.

There are exceptions to every rule. Officials for the most part perform the duties as merely a vocation. For the limited few, opportunities to make a profession out of the effort can also take place.

This week, the Mooresville Recreation Department engages in the opening of its youth-related leagues in both softball and baseball after a long absence for both sports. The programs never got underway last year when all such competition was completely shelved in the continued precaution wake of COVID-19. By the looks of the registration in regard to the number of signed-up players, the return to the field is a welcome one.

That is not the case, however, for the group being held responsible for providing game officials. A desperate call for assistance in regard to the number of officials required has been issued in order to allow the organization to provide complete coverage. The need is real for any and all with any past experience as well as any and all wishing to get started in the area of officiating.

Rewards are limited at best. Per-game payments for game officials are perhaps at the highest rate in memory. It’s long been said that merely performing the duties for the sake of payment is not the primary reason for committing the services. The driving force behind the responsibility is the desire to make the games as balanced as possible on the part of all parties involved.

The lack of servants is one that cannot be ignored. For the games to take place, officials are required. The need for their presence puts those rosters in crisis mode.


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