New York Parents are Driving Refs Away, and Hurting Their Kids in the Process
I'll begin this with an admission that few know, and few may care about, but I'm going to say anyway. I was a high school athlete, and I won a state championship in hockey when I was a junior.
Hold your applause, please.
Jokes aside, I wouldn't trade a second of the high school, travel and house league sports that I played growing up. I made life-long friends, I competed for championships, I saw new states and towns I never would've visited otherwise, and the entire experience instilled the love of sports in my that I still have to this day.
In 2021, however, there are kids that are getting robbed of this opportunity. Not because of anything they've done, but rather, because of something that parents and fans continue to do. And I, for one, will not let it go uncalled.
So, Who is to Blame for This Trend?
Parents and fans are two passionate groups of people, especially when it comes to cheering on a friend or loved on in sports. Cheering is fine, but berating and harassing referees is WAY over the line. Sadly, that's exactly what is happening, and referees are dropping like flies.
No matter where you look, in the state of New York, there are referee shortages for youth and high school sports. The coronavirus pandemic certainly caused a few to hang up the stripes and the whistles, but the more consistent reason has been the behavior of spectators.
How Bad is This Getting in New York?
Check out what NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said to WHAM Channel 13 in Rochester, NY:
"I also think we as community members and administrators need to be aware of the way officials are treated, which is a direct correlation to how many of them we see that actually want to officiate. The better we treat those officials, the more inclined they will be to want to get involved with this line of work." - Dr. Robert Zayas to WHAM
He expanded on this thought, saying that games are being cancelled or postpone, especially at lower levels, because there is a lack of referee coverage.
The respective district heads in New York are also seeing the drop-off, which is exactly what Section 6 Executive Director Mark DeFilippo told The Post-Journal:
“We have a huge shortage of all officials all throughout Western New York, as well as in the state and country." - DeFilippo to The Post-Journal
Where Do We Go From Here, Sports Fans?
I'm not going to say that I, Dan Bahl, of 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio in Albany, NY, am going to change anyone's mind before they yell at a ref at their kid's game. I am but one man, after all.
I can, however, say that this disappoints me, and it makes me mad. I would not have wanted to be a ref when I was playing sports, and I especially would not want to be one in 2021. The job is thankless, and no matter what call you make, you will always make somebody upset.
There are plenty of people who do want to be referees or umpires, and plenty of people who are very talented in local markets. Going after someone for doing their job, just because you don't agree with a call they have to make in a split-second, is classless and cowardly.
There, I said it.
Most of these fine folks are coming from other jobs that they work during the day, and simply want to be involved in local sports and set good examples for the next generation. Why would someone try to stop a person from doing that?
We need to be better, plain and simple, or the next generation of young athletes is going to continue to suffer.