Summer sports are just around the corner, and before you know it millions of kids across the country will be playing baseball, softball, soccer, and a host of other sports. Most youth sport leagues are run by volunteer coaches and administrators, and officiated by amateur referees who might be paid a nominal fee for their efforts. Obviously your son or daughter is not playing professional sports, yet there should be a few minimal expectations you should have from the umpires, referees, and other officials that work your child’s games.
First, keep in mind that most youth sport officials do a really good job — they show up on time, work hard to be fair in their judgments, and attend to potentially dangerous situations in a timely manner. Still, there are always going to be some officials who don’t do the job they are expected to do, resulting in a less-than-optimal experience for your child. So what expectations should you have for officials this summer? Below are a few quick thoughts to consider:
- Hustle. Sports officiating requires hustle, and officials know this going into the job. Of course, you should be reasonable with your expectations (especially on those really hot summer days), but you should expect that officials are doing all that they can to make the right calls on the field.
- Wrong calls vs. bad calls. Wrong calls are made when an official doesn’t understand the rules of the game (which should not happen very often). In these instances try and make your point to the official in a tactful way, and not in a manner designed to embarrass or humiliate the official. Bad calls, however, happen more regularly — these are the types of judgements that happen in a moments notice and are sometimes missed by officials. Try to be more tolerant in these instances, as even professional officials make mistakes (after all, we’re all human).
- Fairness. Good officials treat both teams the same – with dignity and respect. You should not see the official going over to one team during a game and joking around and giving the impression of playing favorites – instead, good officials make it a point to stay objective and measured in the ways in which they interact and communicate with both teams competing.
- Responding to dangerous situations. Good officials will keep an eye out for potentially dangerous situations and immediately respond to injuries on the field when they occur. Of course, you should not expect the official to provide medical attention to an injured player, but he/she should have an emergency protocol to follow (like knowing who to call) for when injuries occur.
Make sure to do your part this summer by showing respect to officials, and thanking them for all the hard work they do so that kids can have a safe, fun, and meaningful sports experience. Also make sure to be patient and understanding for when bad calls are made (as they will be), and try to remember how difficult a job it is to be perfect with judgement calls (like calling balls and strikes in baseball and softball). Sports officials don’t usually make much money for their hard work, and they are often under-appreciated — making it even that much more important to tell them “thanks” for all they do!
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