Overbearing sports parents have never been more unruly. Sure, there has always been the occasional obnoxious dad who won’t stop yelling at the referee, but that sort of behavior is now the norm. And as a result, youth sports programs across the country are having trouble retaining referees, many of whom are quitting after taking their fair share of abuse.
One referee from Oklahoma, however, decided to use the power of the internet to fight back. Brian Barlow, a soccer referee, created a Facebook page called Offside, on which he uploads videos of parents or spectators behaving poorly during games. To get the videos, Barlow offers other parents and fans $100 for each video clip he deems worthy of publishing.
“I do it to hold people accountable — to identify and call out the small percentage of parents who nonetheless create a toxic environment at youth sports,” Barlow told the New York Times. “It’s a very visual deterrent, and not just to the person caught on video but to others who ask themselves: Do I look like that jerk?”
Kristin Voyles, the mother of one 14-year-old soccer player in a Tulsa suburb, says that Barlow’s tactics have already had a direct impact on their community. “If one parent starts yelling at a ref, all the other parents move away and say: ‘Hey, you don’t want to be videotaped for Barlow’s Facebook page,’” said Voyles. “We know that everyone on the sideline has a smartphone in their hand.”
Sid Goodrich, the executive director of the Oklahoma Soccer Association, confirms that Offside has effectively forced many parents to question whether they should harass a ref. “People are looking at themselves and asking, ‘Am I the reason we don’t have more referees?’” said Goodrich.