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Youth Sports Referee Shortages Are Coming For Your Kid’s Soccer Game

Want to guess why? Referees are blaming parents.

Our kids have had to compromise on a whole lot these past few years. Now that we’re all slowly getting back some normalcy, kids are back in the classrooms, having with their friends again and jumping back into organized sports. Unfortunately, kids who play sports have been smacked with another curveball: a youth referee shortage.

For the past several seasons, youth sports officials have been dealing with a lot of chaos. According to Business Insider, officials have been struggling with finding referees and umpires to cover all the games. The pandemic simply escalated an existing issue, and now there’s a shortage without a quick fix.

“There were so many referees quitting at an alarming rate before corona,” Brian Barlow, a soccer referee who has been working the job for 14 years said. “With corona on top of it all, it’s an epidemic of referee shortages.”

The two main reasons for the shortage are poor pay and dealing with parents, coaches, and fans. It appears it just isn’t worth it. “A lot of referees in their first year quit because the parents, the coaches, and the players are so hateful and say such awful things,” Barlow said. “They don’t want the 40 bucks they’re paid. If there’s that much mental abuse, they don’t want it. They’re leaving.”

According to The New York Times, a survey released last year by the National Association of Sports Officials had some startling responses to back up Barlow’s assertions. The survey found that 57 percent of those surveyed believed sportsmanship was getting worse, and they put the blame on parents and coaches. On top of that, 70 percent of referees quit within three years of starting their careers.

And since the pandemic, it’s just gotten worse. Time away from sports gave referees the out they were looking for, Barlow said.  “A lot of them use it [the pandemic] as an excuse to not referee anymore. They’re already getting burnt out. Then you realize ‘it’s nice not having people yell at me, judging me, and threatening me.'”

So, if you’re one of those parents who are making things harder for youth referees, maybe stop?