Lincoln experiences lack of umpires

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -- "There is a downward trend in officials in general," said Josh Munford of Elite Umpires Association. Lack of interest in umpiring is putting a strain on youth sports in the area.

Munford said there could be a variety of factors affecting the lack of umpires: older umpires are retiring, younger umpires have prior commitments, the pay isn't great, the rules are complex and the environments are volatile.

High schoolers like Josh Hain umpire because they love the game, and needed a little extra money.

"Just being able to be around the game that I love," said Hain. "It's great to see all the kids having fun while I'm having fun."

But that doesn't mean there aren't hard times officiating for Hain and his high school crew. Hain said he's had several friends quit because they didn't like the environment from parents and coaches.

"I really say if you can't handle the heat from the parents, that's one of the biggest negatives of this," said Hain.

Munford tried several different methods of recruiting this year: offering incentives for current umps to recruit new people as well as reaching out to several school boards. He heard almost nothing back. He said, he knows this job is thankless, but "it's a job that needs working. Umpires aren't perfect. It's hard to expect a 17- or 18-year old that's umpiring to know the 17 interpretations of the balk rule."

And while it is hard to please everyone, both Hain and Munford have a good perspective. Said Munford:

"You can't let the 5 percent of the time ruin the 95 percent of the time."