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Parents and Youth Sport Officials Can Get Along

Treating Officials With Respect Is Key

Necessary Evils?

Cats and dogs. Oil and water. Parents and youth sports officials. Some things just don't mix.

Parents and officials never seem to be on the same page. There always seems to be some tension between them. It often seems to parents that the person officiating must be seeing a different game than they are. Every call seems to go against their child's team.

Go to just about any youth sports contest and you are bound to hear parents make comments about the official like the following:

Hey, ref, you must be blind!"
"Hey, ref. You want to borrow my glasses?"
"Ref, are you going out drinking with the other coach after this game?"

And when their child's team has lost the game, you will often hear this comment:

"It is the ref's fault we lost the game. If he hadn't made that call, we would have won the game."

A cynic would say that refs and parents are the necessary evils of youth sports. Refs are necessary to make sure that one side goes away from the contest feeling their team was cheated, and parents are necessary to provide the players and transport them to and from the game.

Officials Are People Too

But before you jump to agree with this characterization, keep in mind the following:

  • No matter the sport, there will always be older people on the field to see that the game is played fairly and by the rules.

  • Sometimes the officials are volunteers and not as well trained as they should be.

  • In other leagues they may be well trained, sanctioned by an officiating organization or the league.

  • Each league has its own way of finding referees

The general rule is the higher the level of competitive play, the more likely the officials are trained and paid and a member of an official's organization. But, whatever the level, remember that officials:

  • Are people with whom you work, or go to church, or parents of your child's classmates in school

  • Want to make youth sports a positive experience, just like you

  • Are trying their best to be fair

  • Have feelings just like everyone else.

Youth Referees: Lots Of Advantages

Some youth sports, like soccer, often employ young people as referees. They are usually players who have been trained to ref games of younger players. In soccer, the general rule is the ref needs to be at least two years older (preferably more) than the players.

Using youth refs has lots of advantages. It:

  • Increases the number of refs available to the league.

  • Teaches young people more about the game.

  • Affords young people the chance to make money in a game they enjoy playing.

  • Lets young people give something back to the game.

  • Allows the young ref to appreciate the challenges of being a referee so when they are playing they are more likely to treat the referee with respect.