Flexibility: High

Social Engagement: High

What’s What: Youth sports are a unique place to help kids build character, community and life skills. If you have a love and knowledge of any sport—soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, swimming—get your game on and make the calls as a referee, umpire, scorekeeper and more. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes feel for the sport and socialize with parents, kids and fans.

Amava Take: If you’re fair-minded and knowledgeable and patient with kids (and their parents), volunteering as a referee or umpire, linesperson or scorekeeper, could be a great way to get involved in your community. There are many unpredictable and teachable moments and you can be a positive influence for the youth in your community. Sometimes the fans need some calming down, other times the coaches need a talking to, so blow that whistle and let the games begin!

From the Front Lines:

What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these positions?

Fair, observant people who know and love the game.

Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?

Don’t get too concerned about high emotions—just make the calls and do your best.

What’s a typical daily schedule like?

Game days are often on weekends and games start early and sometimes run back-to-back.

From the Trenches:  

What’s the most satisfying part of the job/experience?

Watching kids compete hard and then high-five and smile.

How would you describe the hard parts?

When parents and coaches get out of hand.

What’s your strategy for keeping things calm on field and in the stands?

I always keep bubble gum on hand. If someone gets upset I toss over a piece and say “be the bubble.” Not sure what it means, but it diffuses tension!

Special Requirements: Because you’ll be working with kids, you should expect a background check. Other than that, there aren’t many requirements other than a willingness to do any training the organization requires and a love of the game. The National Alliance for Youth Sports is one of the main organizations you can turn to for certification and membership.

Finding a Position: You can always head into your own community center to ask about officiating and other opportunities. Some youth sports organizations and communities pay their referees, but this can vary region to region and sport to sport. If you get a kick out of soccer, look into AYSO. If baseball’s your bag, Little League has information that can lead you to volunteer positions. Here is how to find your local Little League. For basketball, see National Junior Basketball. For lacrosse, see US Lacrosse. For swimming, see the USA Swimming Foundation.