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Kicking & Screaming

Verbal Abuse From Parents is Causing a Shortage of Referees in Youth Sports

Youth sports organizations all around the country are facing shortages of referees, a statistic that makes it hard for them to keep up with the continuing increase of player participation. While there could be a number of reasons for the lack of zebras, it’s believed that many are declining to return because of one simple reason: some sideline parents are dicks. Every game has a set of asshole moms and dads who enjoy berating referees from the bleachers. And it seems referees are sick of dealing with their shit.

According to The Washington Post, the lack of returning referees is hitting soccer the hardest, but every youth sport is in trouble. The Fairfax County Football Officials Association, for instance, said it has experienced a 40 percent drop over the past three years. And according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, only two of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating. Barry Mano, founder and president of the 22,000-member National Association of Sports Officials, said believes that these exits will continue as long as referees are mistreated.

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The Commonwealth Soccer Officials Association found that up to 85 percent of youth soccer games inspected featured “loud vocal dissent from fans, of which 20 percent included spectator profanity.” This has not been tracked with an increase in penalties or red cards, implying that the misbehavior solely falls on the shoulders of those who aren’t actually on the field.

Now, some angry parents may be booing refs because the referees we do have — for soccer at least — aren’t as qualified as they could be. Missed red cards could make parents red in the face for a reason. Still, so many referees are volunteers and sideline screamers need to recognize this.

So how do we solve this problem before there are no refs left to keep the peace on the field? Simple: ask disruptive parents to settle down. These are volunteers helping out at a game. The refs might not be perfect, but they’re doing their best. Without them, we’d have total anarchy — a lot fewer Saturday morning activities.

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