It’s difficult to imagine many jobs or volunteer positions where having abuse and criticism hurled at you would be tolerated. Yet many people don’t think twice before unleashing on referees and officials in youth sports.
It’s so disheartening and so toxic for the referees that the New York Times reports that “… 70 percent of new referees in all sports quit the job within three years, according to the National Association of Sports Officials. The chief cause for the attrition, based on a survey conducted by the association, was pervasive abuse from parents and coaches.”
The Times talks to one referee who has started filming the bad behaviour, as well as paying others for similar footage, and posting it online in order to deter people from acting badly for fear of ending up on his Facebook page, Offside. You can view a sampling of the videos at the top of the Times article.
Brian Barlow, the Oklahoma youth soccer referee who started the Facebook page, says it is changing how parents behave on the sidelines.
It’s sad that it takes this kind of public shaming to create change.
Our own Jaime Neefs, who is a soccer referee, wrote an open letter to parents that should be required reading by every parent with children in sports.
Have you witnessed this kind of sidelines behaviour? We’d like to hear your best ideas on how to eliminate verbal abuse from spectators.