Is yelling at youth sports officials OK?
That musical question is asked by Springfield (Mass.) Republican columnist Bill Wells.
“WHAT a lousy UMPire… WHAT a lousy UMP-ire… WHAT a lousy UMP-ire…” — it’s like a remix with no music.
You can click through to see what Wells has to say. But because you’re here, I’ll give my answer, which is applicable from high school on down, but especially so for any game involving prepubescent children.
My first rule, to myself and the players I coach, is that the level of officiating can be no better than the level of play. So if you’re expecting NBA-level refs at a fifth-grade basketball game, you’re due to be disappointed.
My second rule, to myself and the players I coach, is that yelling at the official is a waste of time that only takes your focus away from the task at hand. I’ve seen too many players get caught up in what calls are made or not made, and completely take themselves out of the game. I tell them if anybody is going to talk to the official — not yell, but talk — it’s me.
My third rule, to myself, is that only rarely will I talk to the referee during the game, except to call a time out. I have exceptions. One is if I feel like the game is getting dangerously out of control. I have pointed out during basketball games that my players are getting hit with elbows, or I have asked the refs to get control of a kid who might be pushing or undercutting people. (If that happens with my own team, I handle it.) I don’t speak to the refs like they’re idiots. Sometimes they don’t call fouls because at younger ages refs sometimes are instructed to let the kids play.
Yes, I have, on a few occasions, questioned individual calls. But I ask for clarification — why was that a travel instead of a foul? And I try to use that to instruct my team — here is what the refs and calling and why.
The rules are the same when I coach baseball or softball. Except that usually kids throwing elbows aren’t quite such a big issue.
As for parents yelling at referees, in my intro letters to them, I note rules Nos. 1 and 2 in hopes that if they have any inclination to yell at officials. As far as I’m concerned, parents have the least right to yell at officials, and that’s at a standard where no one has the right to yell at them. Parents who yell at officials tend to general pains in the asses to players and coaches, for one thing.
For another, you as a parent are not making your kid any better by sending the signal that any failures are because of a bad call. In fact, you train your kid to be as big of a pain in the ass as you are.