Fearing for their safety, Wisconsin sees shortage of youth sporting officials

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- The hero at a youth baseball game is rarely the person you hear behind home plate, but without them, kids can't play ball in any sport.

There is a shortage of refs, umps, and other important sports officials in Wisconsin. A survey by the National Association of Sports Officials shows nearly half of the officials in Wisconsin fear for their safety at games. Abuse from parents and coaches is forcing several to hang up their whistles.

About 80% of new officials quit by the end of their second year. A fight between parents at a wrestling tournament in Kimberly sparked a statewide conversation two years ago. Youth sports official Bruce Keiser says the altercation is a testament to parent behavior officials witness all too often.

"Sixty-four percent of them have thrown somebody out of a gym or contest in one way shape or form," Keiser said.

Wisconsin officials' average is 45-years-old. It used to be 25-years-old. New officials that do start quit one-to-three years later. Since 2019, WIAA Sports has lost 1,600 officials.

At the end of the day, they just don't want to deal with all the abuse. 

"Boy, you make one mistake and it's all over the YouTube and anything like that," Keiser said. "That's hard. I got tripped a few times. I had a coach take a swing at me after a game."

There is work being done to address the issue. Wisconsin Assembly Bill 158 aims to disqualify bad behavior with a penalty. 

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