Need a New Year’s resolution? If you’re one of those over-the-top parents of a youngster playing youth or school sports, we have one for you: Take a deep breath and vow to stop berating the sports officials and referees when you head out to the games this year.
Your abusive behavior toward often-young officials is taking the fun out of the game, embarrassing your youngster and might even be threatening the viability of the sport itself.
But don’t take our word for it; as a self-proclaimed expert on all facets of the competition, you are probably familiar with statistics. So here is a stat for youth sports from last year: According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 80 percent of high school sports officials quit before their third year on the job.
Barry Mano, president of the National Association of Sports Officials, commented on a June baseball game for 7-year-olds in Lakewood, Colo., that devolved into a full-scale brawl among parents after a dispute over a call by a 13-year-old umpire. He told Fox News in September that such incidents are far from isolated.
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“Not a week goes by that we don’t field a call in our offices from one of our members, or even a non-member sometimes, having to deal with assaultive behavior,” Mano said.
Mano pointed to a survey of U.S. youth sports officials that found that 13 percent reported being assaulted, 47 percent said they have feared for their safety, 57 percent said they have had to break up fights between players and 64 percent said they have had to eject a spectator over unruly behavior.
Taking that super-sized ration of verbal abuse from parents on the sidelines is having a predictable effect — it’s causing young refs and umpires to quit the game because they don’t need the grief, even if they love the game.
Those are the numbers. They say your unbridled enthusiasm has crossed over to sometimes vicious bullying and you could be killing the sport.
No refs means no game. You probably don’t want that to happen.
So when game time comes around this year, cheer your youngster to your heart’s content, but resist the urge to scream at the ref — especially when they are youngsters themselves. Remember it’s a game, and that calls for good sportsmanship — that’s a lesson you should be teaching by example.