Volunteer sports officials can do a variety of jobs. It all depends on
the type of sports league they volunteer for. Jobs may include coaching and
refereeing, or being an usher, assistant coach or team parent.
Being a sports official requires knowledge of the game, whether it's soccer,
football, baseball, basketball or another sport. In some cases, a volunteer
trains to become certified as an official in the sport. Volunteers must be
at least 16 years old.
Most sports officials volunteer because they want to be involved in the
game. "I became involved in coaching youth sports after watching my son during
his first year in football," says Mike Williams. He is a volunteer sports
official for a youth sports organization in Georgia. "Knowing I wanted to
be out there, I signed up for the following year."
Volunteer sports officials teach young players the game, the rules of the
game, good sportsmanship, teamwork and self-confidence. Volunteers need to
be comfortable working with children of all ages.
Volunteering as a sports official means getting to take part in a game
you love. But the benefits to the organization are just as important.
"The organization gets an all-around great, fantastic, quality person to
work with them for free," jokes David French. He is a volunteer sports official
for a hockey association and a baseball association.
With so many different sports and thousands of participants, the need for
volunteer sports officials is tremendous. Without the volunteers, many leagues
would not be able to function.
Volunteering as a sports official has its perks and can make for some interesting
"There was this little boy on my team one year," says Williams. "He went
all season without a hit." That is until the last game of the season....
"The little boy came up to the plate and swung at the first
pitch that was thrown. Next thing you saw was him hitting the ball way out
into the outfield. Then he dropped the bat and started running towards the
base, but with one mistake. He ran to third base first. That day was probably
the weirdest, most interesting day of coaching."
Unfortunately, fun is not always the name of the game when parents are
"I've seen adults at games take things so seriously that verbal fighting
and insults start being hurled around," says Sherry French. She is a volunteer
sports official for a baseball association.
"I recall one play-off day when a father was swearing and getting very
aggressive and had to be physically removed. That was quite frightening.
"Oddly, there can be a lot of pressure in sports volunteering. Try keeping
a dozen or so five-year-olds in an organized line, waiting for their turn
at bat, while also trying to keep track of who scores, when. There is tons
of fun to be had, but there is also a lot of work."
At the end of the game, however, the work is worth it for most volunteers.
Joseph Branske is a volunteer sports official for a girls' soccer league
in Las Vegas, Nevada. "I remember one game that my daughter played so bad.
When the game was over, she was smiling and said, 'I did great today.' I just
said, 'You sure did,' and that was the end of it. You never know what they
are thinking. She felt good about herself, and that's all that mattered."
Of course, there are times when Branske knows what his team, including
his daughter, is thinking. "My favorite moment of coaching was when my daughter's
soccer team came up to me after the winning season and thanked me. They gave
me a group hug. I love that stuff."
How to Get Involved
Getting involved as a volunteer sports official is simple. As David French
points out, "Just let them know you are interested. It doesn't mean you'll
be picked, but if you're not chosen, be there and get involved from the sidelines.
Often, if you are seen to be the right kind of person, you'll be asked to
help out. You can start that way."
Some costs may be involved. Different leagues have different requirements.
Some may involve purchasing uniforms, paying for certification classes, purchasing
equipment or providing game-day refreshments.
You have to be physically fit and capable of demonstrating proper technique.
National Association of Sports Officials
2017 Lathrop Ave.
Links for Officials
Find links to sports associations, sport-specific sites, high
school associations and college conferences
National Alliance for Youth Sports
Learn about this advocate for positive and safe sports for children
National Youth Sports Safety Foundation
Learn about this national nonprofit dedicated to reducing injuries
in sports and fitness activities
Find various volunteer opportunities near you