United, we can make this dream a reality

NASO Summit in Denver Brings Sports Officials Together 

Officials from every sport from rugby to the NFL were represented at the annual NASO Summit in Denver. 

Although they wear different stripes, uniforms and equipment on the fields, they are united in the issues they face. For the first time since 2019, officials gathered for an in-person summit to trade ideas and discuss issues that are impacting their industry. More than 500 officiating leaders attended the three-day event. 

Retired Major League Baseball Umpire Gary Darling, who now serves as president of the board for UMPS CARE Charities, attended the summit and was featured in a segment on FOX’s Denver affiliate, KDVR. Gary discussed the crisis in youth sports as many games have been canceled or postponed due to the nationwide shortage of umpires and officials in all sports. 

The National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) said its own membership dropped from 29,000 in March 2020 to 23,000 today. The average age of an official is 53. According to a survey of 19,000 officials from 15 states by a non-profit organization called Officially Human, 60 percent of officials said they have quit because of verbal and physical abuse. 

Together, however, umpires and referees, along with leaders and decision-makers in sports arenas at all levels are working toward making the world for sports officials (and players, coaches and parents) a better place. 

“It was fantastic to see sports officials come together,” said Gary Darling, who spent nearly 30 years working in Major League Baseball. “With our schedules, it is difficult to carve out time when we can get together, so to have this opportunity is truly special.”