Asshole Parents & Violent Players Are Creating A Referee Crisis In Youth Sports

Usually when there's a sign up somewhere it's there for a reason... Something has already happened to warrant its existence & it's there to serve as a reminder to prevent further trouble. A good example would be in the youth sports genre, one we're probably all familiar with by now, whether we've seen it in person at a field or making the rounds on the internet:

And according to recent articles that have done deep dives on the issue those signs do, indeed, exist for a reason. It's gotten so bad that refs are quitting in droves, and the shortage has lead to cancelled games across the nation. 

From Experience Magazine:

Over the past six years, the number of registered high school officials has declined by 23 percent in Florida and 19 percent in Indiana. In Texas, there aren’t enough officials to cover every high school varsity football game if every school plays on Friday, so the state that made Friday Night Lights famous now also has Monday Night Lights, Tuesday Night Lights, etc.

And it’s going to get worse, because the average age of a high school official is in the mid-50s — and as refs age out, there are not enough younger officials to replace them. “We have more members over 60 than we do under 30,” says Michael Fitch, executive director of the Texas Association of Sports Officials.

Why do so many refs quit? The decline in sportsmanship is a major issue; in some areas, verbal and even physical abuse is the number one reason officials leave the job. Parents confronting refs in parking lots after games has become commonplace. Referee Magazine founder Barry Mano, who also founded the National Association of Sports Officials, said assaults on officials have happened often enough that the magazine devotes major coverage only to particularly egregious events.

That atmosphere has turned refereeing, always partly a labor of love, into something that might not be worth the trouble.

I typed some keywords into Twitter & here's just a few of the dozens & dozens of stories I found from the last few years, and this is just the USA. I'm leaving out international examples but this is happening around the world (especially to soccer refs… some of the videos & images were brutal). 



Refs are even taking out insurance to deal with this stuff… 


You get the idea… and thousands of refs have confirmed that this trend is crushing their will to do the job. Via The New York Times:

Officially Human, an organization that promotes the respectful treatment of referees, conducted a survey of nearly 19,000 officials in 2019. Asked what their top reason for quitting would be, 60 percent said verbal abuse from parents and fans. According to a 2017 survey of more than 17,000 referees by the National Association of Sports Officials, 39 percent said that parents caused the most problems with sportsmanship. (Coaches were second at 29 percent.)

Crazy. The worst part was reading the stories from refs in their teens getting harassed by grown adults, both coaches & parents. 

The insults he directed at Rhiana, who was 14 at the time, intensified throughout the match; she said that he [coach] had accused her of being colorblind and had shouted expletives and a racial slur at her. Before the final whistle blew, the coach had been kicked off the field. And Rhiana, holding back tears, texted her boss, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”

Genuinely, what the fuck is wrong with people!? And why, with probably dozens of other adults witnessing this, did it take so long to stop it? He should have been pulled to the side at the first sign of assholery. The same with all of these cases… most of the times this behavior escalates throughout the course of the game, there are signs. Nip that shit in the bud. (Then again, I'm sure it's legit scary to confront someone acting like a lunatic.) Back in the olden days of the Chaps & Kate show on Sirius we had an episode asking refs to call in with their craziest stories & the call board lit up with tales of abuse from the sidelines & players. There's no way I'd ever want to do it. 

I feel like we need sideline refs now just to keep the grownups in line. You shout a cuss word, you get your high-end cooler taken away for the season. You step on the field, you have to eat a white dog turd. Etc., etc. 

Selfishly, this all better turn around by the time my son is old enough to play sports because I very much look forward to sitting peacefully on the sidelines eating the half-time snacks with a cosmo disguised as a coffee.

Giphy Images.