This is an old story and unfortunately, it’s not getting any better with age. Some would argue it’s just getting worse. The conduct of parents, players, and some coaches, even in some of the most junior leagues is driving youth sports officials off the field and out of the game for good.
A recent national survey showed just two out of every ten officials lasts more than three years. More often than not the cause is lack of sportsmanship, and poor parent behavior is cited as the reason for leaving the game. The impact on youth sports on the shrinking pool of officials means a lot of schedule aerobics, overworked officials, and at worst, cancellation of games.
Interestingly enough, it isn’t just one sport or even one country that has a monopoly on poor sportsmanship and bad behavior. Parents have been banned from attending their children’s hockey games in Canada. A 14-year old female soccer referee was verbally abused to the point of quitting a match for girls under the age of 8. In England, Australia, and Mexico, soccer and rugby refs have been threatened, physically hit by players, spat on and had to be escorted to their cars after a match.
Some point to the less than role model behavior of a few professional athletes and coaches, while others highlight the additional stress caused when parents begin to “invest” heavily in their child’s athletic career and the dream of playing professionally. Whatever the reason, the official shortage is real and it’s going to continue to negatively impact how youth sports are played.
To help turn the tide and return the proper level of respect and support to youth sports officials here are a couple things every parent, player and coach should keep in mind.