As sports officials, we are among some of the most verbally abused people in both youth sports and professional sports. With die-hard fans, competitive athletes, and dedicated coaches on both sides of the fence, it’s impossible to make everyone happy no matter the call. If your child plays youth sports, we want you to take a second and see the game through our eyes. Try to imagine yourself as one of the officials and how you would want to be treated. Here’s what we see in our shoes:
The number-one priority of a youth sports official is to keep the kids safe. It’s tempting to call out, “Just let the kids play, ref!” But without our timely intervention, rambunctious players are likely to get hurt. Some refs may be guilty of going overboard sometimes, but we would rather err on the side of caution than see a young player sustain a preventable injury.
Recreational youth sports leagues are free to set their own rules regarding who can officiate, while most competitive leagues use officials certified to work games at the high school level or higher. We know the game, understand the rules, and have completed training to ensure our competence.
Officials may be responsible for keeping players safe, but that’s far from the only thing we have to worry about. Refs must also keep an eye on the clock, make good calls, help the game flow smoothly, and monitor the position of other referees.
With so much to watch at once, we don’t make the right call 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean we deserve to be insulted, attacked, or harassed. So give the officials at your kid’s next game some grace. Even the very best refs make mistakes sometimes.
It’s common for committed parents and coaches to get emotional about youth sports. Sometimes parents are even more emotional than the athletes themselves. Especially when an official makes a bad call, but it’s important to have perspective.
Remember, you signed your child up for sports so they could have fun. They also get exercise, learn about teamwork, and make friends. A bad call in your child’s t-ball or flag football game may feel devastating at the moment, but please remember that this is not the pros. The goal of youth sports is that the kids are having fun and learning to play sports they love.
We know you love supporting your kids by going to their games. And they love having you there.
However, according to a 2012 i9 Sports®® survey, 31% of kids wish adults didn’t watch their games because they yell too much, are too distracting, make players nervous, and put too much pressure on them to play better. Be the kind of parent your child wants at their games by acting as a positive spectator, not a noisy heckler. Model the sportsmanship-like behavior you hope your child will adopt.
As you can imagine, being a youth sports official is not a high-paying job. We free up our weekends to officiate games because we want to work in sports, make a difference in kids’ lives, and have fun! This means few officials, if any, have a hidden agenda, as much as some parents might like to think we do.
You can trust us to cultivate a positive culture, act as an on-field coach when necessary, and advocate for youth sports programs.
When you’re at your child’s next game, we hope you remember that we love what we do! You love your kids, and we are both working toward the same goal- to keep the kids safe and make sure they have fun!
If you’re interested in enrolling your child in a local sports league, check out what i9 Sports® has to offer. We provide youth athletic programs in hundreds of communities across the United States, with over 3.5 million registrations nationwide. We also present parents and community members with the opportunity to become coaches and officials. To learn more, please browse our programs or contact your local i9 Sports® office today.