Let’s face it, youth sport officiating can be a very thankless job. In fact, the old saying is that the good referees are the ones you don’t notice during the game – so much for positive reinforcement and praise! (Sport Success 360)
On the other hand, when referees miss or make bad calls, the reactions by spectators are often negative, mean-spirited, and even potentially dangerous.
As fans, we sometimes forget how difficult the job of an official can be, resulting in our sometimes inappropriate actions (like yelling out insults at an official). Not only is it tough to make perfect calls all the time, the emotional component that accompanies the play on the field often prompts ref’s to make immediate calls, rather than having time to logically think through potential fouls and penalties on the field (and there’s no instant replay in youth sports, either).
Youth sport officials are sometimes under-valued and, sadly, only acknowledged when they make mistakes. Add to the fact that they typically don’t make much money officiating (in some cases no money at all), and you might scratch your head about how lucky we are to have officials working our youth games when they receive such little reward for their hard efforts. The truth is without sports officials, kids wouldn’t have the fairly judged sporting events we have come to expect.
This week I would like to offer 5 tips to help fans fairly judge the officials working youth sports this summer:
1. Hustle. It is very reasonable to expect officials to hustle, and often the really good officials will end up more tired at the end of the game than the kids they officiate because of their hustle! Officials who hustle usually get in the best position to make good calls, and also earn the respect of the athletes on the field when they miss a call because of the efforts they made to do their best.
2. Wrong call v. bad call. Officials make bad calls all the time — even at the professional level. A bad call is simply a product of being “human,” and is impossible to avoid in sports. A wrong call, however, is when an official simply doesn’t know a rule pertaining to the game. Wrong calls should be addressed promptly through league operators or commissioners so that the official can learn the rule(s) for the future.
3. Respectful to athletes and coaches. Good officials show respect to both teams while remaining impartial calling the game. In these examples officials who show respect use clean language, refrain from profanities, and are mindful of their body language so that it is not seen as sarcastic, condescending, or mean-spirited.
4. Keep the game moving along. Good officials encourage teams to hustle on and off the field and keep the game moving along, as well as pay attention to make sure neither team gets an unfair advantage with extra warmup time or extended time during timeouts.
5. Respond to on-field injuries. While it may be asking too much to expect officials to treat injured athletes on the field, they should at minimum have a working knowledge of what to do and who to contact when injuries occur.
Thank your sports officials this summer and let them know you appreciate the efforts they make to help your child have a happy, productive, and successful sports career!