By Ken Reed
Little League and other youth sports organizations may soon be begging parents — and maybe even people on the street — to officiate their games due to the dramatic drop in the number of referees for youth and high school sports in recent years. If not, regular game cancellations in these leagues could become the norm.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, on average, only two of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating. Moreover, the trend is going in the wrong direction. And Barry Mano, founder and president of the National Association of Sports Officials, which has 22,000 members, said he doesn’t expect the situation to improve anytime soon.
What’s causing sports officials to bail from the sports they love at such a high rate? Adults gone wild. Coaches and parents who are driven by a win-at-all-costs mentality.
“There’s no moral fiber left in our society,” said Northern Virginia Football Officials Association Commissioner Dennis Hall, who dealt with 32 player and coach ejections across all levels of youth football in 2016.
“People think because they paid to get into the game they can say and do anything they want, and they think they know the rules better than the officials because they watch television.”
One former referee decided to quit after dealing with an angry coach and angry parents during a game.
“I said, ‘I would rather spend my time on the weekends with my kids and with my wife than stand out here and be abused by these parents,’ ” said Warren Graver, who kept good to his word and hasn’t been a referee in the past two years. “It doesn’t make sense.”
No, it doesn’t make sense.
And it proves once again that there are too many adults with warped priorities in youth sports these days.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.