Sports officials feeling effects of COVID-19 restrictions
Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah makes an out call during the 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association season at Carl Albert State College in Poteau. Hannah’s college season ended mid-March when the association canceled the remainder of the 2020 spring season. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – With the spread of COVID-19 shutting down National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Junior College Athletic Association, high school and youth sports, there is one group of professionals that is feeling the effects of it financially as well as mentally, umpires.
Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah is in his 41st year as a professional softball umpire, and his season started in early February with junior college games. He said the season began normally. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 and the complete shuttering of all spring sports suddenly put an end to his college schedule.
“Obviously I’m upset about that because that’s a considerable amount of my yearly income,” he said. “I do a lot of college ball and it’s going to hit me in the pocketbook pretty hard.”
Although Hannah said umpiring is not his sole income source as he is also an English professor at Rogers State University. However, he said he’s been fortunate in the past four years and he’s been able to make more money umpiring compared to teaching.
He added that several sports officials are far less fortunate the he is.
“Some of these umpires, that’s all they do is officiate games, so they have zero income right now,” he said. “Even youth organizations like USA Softball and USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) are all cancelling games or postponing the start of the season. That’s putting a lot of umpires and a lot of game officials, not just softball and baseball, out of work”
On the other hand, there are some officials who umpire that do not completely rely on the income it provides.
“It’s not my main source of income and it’s nice to have,” CN citizen Gary Lively said. “I’ve learned that I can’t always depend on it being there.”
Lively officiates adult, high school and youth softball competitions in Oklahoma and surrounding states.
Even though he’s not hurt financially, he is feeling adverse effects of the shutdown and the cancelations mentally.
“I find the situation very depressing, not only for the me, but the players as well,” Lively said. “People really love their sports and enjoy watching and heckling us or whatever they feel like doing. It’s going to be hard to figure out what to do without any sports at all.”
For Hannah and Lively, there is hope that their officiating seasons aren’t completely lost. As of publication, USA Softball, USSSA, National Softball Association and other youth organizations are planning to start play later this spring.