It’s no secret that when it comes to youth sports events, even parents and coaches can lose their cool in the heat of the moment. But watch out: Referees are ejecting more parents and coaches than ever.
As youth sports get more competitive, there’s more pressure to win than ever before. However, along with the playing field, the pressure-cooker is often happening on the sidelines, with parents becoming more vocal and coaches becoming more stressed. The situation has resulted in more referees quitting but reports around the country are also showing another effect: Referees are becoming bolder when it comes to ejecting players, spectators and coaches. And I do really mean around the country—just check out these articles popping up in Arizona, Illinois, and Iowa. As a coach, you’ve likely already experienced this escalation firsthand. So, what can we learn from this current climate? The aforementioned reports provide at least some insight.
IT’S USUALLY A FEW BAD APPLES THAT RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE
According to a parent quoted in the Iowa story by The Des Moines Register, "Youth sports have become spectator- and money-driven, so it's a different animal than in the past.” Perhaps it’s true that we’ve become wrapped up in all these distractions, so which would explain why some spectators take youth sports so seriously. And when they do take it so seriously, that sometimes leads to losing one’s cool and popping off in the middle of a game. When a parent gets heated, it could be helpful to remind them that this is a learning experience for the kids, and not a realistic track to going pro.
KEEP SAFETY IN MIND
According to the Arizona Interscholastic Association, last year Arizona had 40 ejections for punching … in football alone. Whenever taking part in a heated discussion, remember that things can escalate quickly and always consider your safety. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and let the situation cool off before things are taken to an embarrassing and dangerous situation. In fact, the issue has escalated to the point that Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that will protect youth sports officials.
NEW REFEREES ARE INEXPERIENCED, AND IT SHOWS
Many parents, coaches, and players have complained about inexperienced officials or ones that cannot effectively perform their job because of physical limitations. According to one parent quoted in the Arizona story by The Arizona Republic, “new referees need to understand that it is acceptable for captains and coaches to have conversations with them or their assistants.” Unfortunately, when there’s a referee shortage, the quality of officiating goes down.
One thing to keep an eye out for is whenever there’s one referee officiating a big game instead of a three-person crew, they’ll be more likely to make mistakes and have a short fuse. Make sure to communicate this with your team and set the expectation that there may be some borderline calls made. Equipped with this information, your team will be better prepared to execute its game plan. Additionally, it’s the coach’s role to control his players during the game. Don’t leave the mindset of your team up to the refs and you’ll be a lot happier with the results.