Abuse from the Sidelines Driving High School Referees Away from Officiating

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At high school games, not just in California but all across the country, referees are making the call to step away from officiating.

They are citing “adult behavior” from coaches and, especially, parents as the reason behind it.

“Nobody deserves to work like that under that condition,” said parent Dan Lagunday.

According to a survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of high school referees say that type of behavior is exactly why they quit.

“What is happening is their love of the game is being taken away by the yelling and the screaming of the adults and their fear at the facilities,” said California Interscholastic Federation Executive Director Roger Blake.

“No, it’s not out of control but it’s worsened in the last two years,” said referee scheduler Jim Jorgensen.

Where it’s having its biggest impact is at freshman and junior varsity games. Those contests serve as training grounds for young officials.

But because of the abuse, 80 percent of the newbies hang up their stripes after just two years.

“Sometimes they’re learning just to use a whistle, where to stop, where to call a foul, positioning, and all that,” Jorgensen said. “And they make a call and maybe it’s wrong and they hear, ‘You suck. You’re terrible. Get out of here.'”

The CIF, the governing body for high school sports in California, says the shortage of game officials has been impacted so much that this spring many freshman and JV baseball and softball games will be umpired by a coach and not a trained official.

“We’re in a society now where everyone wants it perfect. It’s high school and youth sports, that’s impossible,” Blake said. “This is not these men and women’s profession. That’s why they’re not doing it. They’re going, ‘It’s abusive, it’s terrible.'”

The CIF is hoping an educational approach to adult behavior at high school games could be a start. They also say some schools are already issuing a “warning” to parents in the stand and if it continues that parent is removed.

If you’d like to become part of the solution to the shortage of high school referees go to the National Federation of State High School Associations website.


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