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Youth Sports Leaders Ask Obnoxious Parents to ‘Cool It’ in Open Letter

Verbal abuse from parents is fueling an officiating shortage. This letter is the latest attempt to address the problem.

Two major high school athletic associations are asking parents to stop verbally criticizing game officials and coaches, citing the embarrassment and annoyance of such conduct at games and its contribution to widespread youth official shortages.

In an open letter, Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and George Tomyn, executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, celebrate the passion and support of the parents of young athletes.

They warn, however, that “Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the primary reason Florida has an alarming shortage of high school officials.”

Their arguments are not just anecdotal. Niehoff and Tomyn cite a survey by the National Association of Sports Officials that found “adult behavior” is the reason 75 percent high school officials quit. And with older officials retiring and younger officials quitting early in their careers, there’s currently a shortage of licensed officials that will continue if officiating, a not particularly well-paid or glamorous job to start with, means hours of verbal abuse from the sidelines.

“The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in some areas that athletic events are being postponed or cancelled—especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels,” the letter reads. Additionally, a lack of qualified referees is leading to more player infractions for relatively minor infractions in at least one state.

The open letter joins internet shame and the possibility of criminal prosecution in ways that the youth sports community is trying to get parents under control.

It ends with a pitch to parents to sign up to become licensed officials and a reminder that  “adult role models at high school athletic events here in Florida are always welcome.”