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Umpire shortage could cause Washington Co. middle school team consolidations

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A shortage of umpires and qualified coaches could lead to some middle schools in Washington County, Tennessee consolidating their baseball and softball teams.

Superintendent Jerry Boyd told News Channel 11 on Wednesday that Washington County Schools is in the planning phase of considering team consolidation. The district is gathering information and exploring options before making any hard and fast plans, according to Boyd.

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“One of the reasons is the reality that we have a challenge in this region and across the state, and probably across the nation, of people [who] are both willing and able to umpire baseball and softball games,” Boyd said.

Boyd pointed to the number of K-8 schools in the district and said it is challenging to find enough umpires to cover the amount of games needed if each school fields a baseball and softball team.

“We have other things that have arisen in the discussion that in Washington County we do that may contribute to that problem we’re looking at,” Boyd said. “So the discussion is just that – it’s a planning phase to get to the point that we then present and engage our board in the discussion.”

“We’ll ultimately be asking them to review the options that we have identified to address the problems with the shortage of umpires. Also a shortage of qualified coaches.”

A negative shift in athletic environments could be to blame for the lack of umpires and officials, Boyd told News Channel 11.

“We’re talking about what I’ve been told and read and heard in the world of officiating athletic events, whether it’s on the court or on the field,” Boyd said. “In our society, over the last many years, that’s become more difficult. There’s a lot more negative experiences for people who are trying to do their best to officiate games. So they make personal decisions; they may not want to be in that environment.”

Boyd urged anyone who attends sporting events to remember that officials are human and can make mistakes, but they typically do their best despite hostile surroundings. The school district hopes to retain as many umpires as it can and wants them to be treated appropriately.

“Certainly we can all get frustrated with mistakes that impact our children, our teams, but we have to pull back and remember individuals are taking time to both make themselves qualified to do it and then they’re actually doing it.”

A possible solution to the umpire shortage could be to challenge more parents to get qualified and help fill the gap, which Boyd also hopes will give some parents perspective into what officials endure from crowds.

The school district has identified other options to help address logistical challenges associated with baseball and softball personnel shortages. Boyd said the district is looking at implementing a time limit on middle school games.

“We had an option to not have a time limit. We’re discussing that there needs to be, on a middle school softball and baseball game, a specific time limit. There should also be in place a required run rule that was not necessarily always applied.”

Boyd hopes potential changes to middle school softball and baseball in Washington County will lead to consistency for the players and parents.

The school district will continue to plan and discuss possible avenues regarding baseball and softball. Boyd said decisions will be made before the spring, but options could be brought to the school board by July or August.

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