What appeared to be an intentional attack against an official during a high school football game in Texas last month that was captured on video is causing high school sports administrators around the country to remind coaches, players, and parents about the importance of treating officials with respect.
Two defensive football players from San Antonio John Jay High School blindsided a back judge, one running into him at full speed from behind and another diving into him while he was on the ground (see video of the incident here). Police and district officials are investigating.
Almost every youth sports contest has its share of people on both sides who yell and scream at officials over what they believe are wrong or missed calls. It’s amazing how worked up some adults and players can get, especially during tight games. They can get so emotional and out of hand that they’re asked to quiet down, ejected, and even banned from future games.
Youth sports officials have two responsibilities: to make sure both teams follow the rules and to keep order. They have no allegiance to either team and they’re not concerned about who wins and loses. Their job is to keep everything as fair as possible for both teams. Because officials are a neutral party (and because they’re actually on the field or court), they’re in a better position to make correct calls or difficult rulings. Coaches, parents, and players on the other hand, are biased. They are likely to perceive calls or rulings that go against their team as wrong or favoring the other team, and are in the stands or on the sidelines, away from the action. This is why it is important for all parties to leave the officiating to the officials.
Officials will make mistakes, so it’s unrealistic to expect perfection from them. Rarely, however, will officials affect the outcome of a game. They do their best to get things right and, during the course of a game they make many more right calls than wrong ones.
When coaches and parents display poor behavior by blaming officials for losses or bad performances, they teach youngsters that it’s okay to use what someone else does as a crutch, and to not take responsibility for their own behavior, effort, and actions. Also, when adults blame and shout their displeasure at officials during games it distracts the players and negatively affects their performance. Kids can easily get caught up in the “blame game” instead of concentrating on what they’re supposed to do.
What can you do to be a positive role model when it comes to the treatment of officials? First, make sports officials off limits. Simply make a commitment to keep quiet when there’s a close or questionable call or a difficult ruling. The hardest thing to do is to stick with this commitment during a tight, emotional game.
The best thing you can do is to be positive and encouraging. When you see players on your team get frustrated or upset over a disputed call or ruling, say something encouraging to them like “It’s no big deal” or “Shake it off.” During games, tell officials “Nice call” when they get it right. This is especially effective when the call or ruling goes against your team. When you do this, you’ll find yourself noticing all the positive things officials do and praising them more often.
One more thing you can do: Learn the rules of your child’s sport. This will make you more knowledgeable about why certain calls and rulings are made or not made. When you learn the rules, you’ll be less likely to argue or get upset with officials.
Remember that being an official can be a thankless job. Someone is usually going to be frustrated or upset because a call or ruling didn’t go his or her way. This is why it’s important for adults and players to thank officials after a game. This teaches players to recognize and respect the tough and important job officials have in trying to enforce rules, keep the game fair, and maintain order.