Stop Teaching Kids to Hate the Refs

Hating-the-Refs-CoverAs a sports fan today, I can pretty well watch almost any game, highlights of those games and endless commentary about the games I just watched, virtually any time of day. Sports coverage has improved tremendously since I was a kid but the one thing that has not improved is how people view referees. Far too many fans have no problem launching rude and hateful comments to the refs for doing their job. Now, hatred might be a strong word but that’s only because I can’t think of anything stronger and this hatred is being passed down to the kids.

The term “fan” is short for “fanatics” and there are millions of people in the world who are fanatic about their favorite team. Some have even gone as far as to make their favorite team their life. They buy the merchandise, they get team tattoos and they even celebrate the date of a player’s accomplishments.

At Montreal Expos games (remember them MLB?) long before video replay appeared on jumbo screens, I was always amazed that someone sitting next to me, 120 to 150 feet away from home plate, could call the umpire blind when he called a strike. The umpire is about 2 feet away from the plate but the fans four sections over saw that it was a bad call.

I’ve seen a hockey player purposely try to embed his stick inside an opposing player but when the whistle blew and the penalty was called, the crowd went nuts! There was screaming, yelling, banging on the glass and a fair amount of cursing, all because the referee called an obvious penalty on a player for the home team.

As a parent of two former competitive basketball players, I’ve seen the worst in people. Most tournaments I’ve attended featured a few parents loudly blaming the referees for their team’s loss. The most popular excuse was that the refs called more fouls on their team than the other. I have also seen parents having to be removed from the gym because of it. This of course was the “win at all cost” world of 12 and 13 year old girls basketball.

Far too many sportscasters and commentators are guilty of this as well. How many times have you heard that a blown call by the referee cost a team to lose a game? One play, one call in the final few seconds and the game was lost. What these sports “experts” seem to forget is that throughout the game, the players didn’t perform when they needed to. How many missed scoring opportunities were there? How many fumbles, throwing errors, bad passes and empty nets were missed? No one seems to remember those but they believe that the final whistle is what lost the game.

Despite popular belief, referees are not paid to lose games for any particular team and they are not visually impaired, deaf or have anything stuck up you-know-where. They are human and despite what many people might think, they ARE a part of the game. They organize the game and they enforce the rules but they’ve also been known to make mistakes. That’s part of the human element in sports.

I could never be a referee. I just wouldn’t have the patience to deal with the nonsense that surrounds it. I’ve seen parents and coaches lose their minds over a penalty and sadly, I’ve seen the kids adopt the same attitude.

Parents can help stop this by not attacking the refs (verbally or physically) especially when their own kids are playing. It’s a game and mistakes are made by the refs, the coaches and especially the players.

The kids notice this and many of them adopt the same attitude. Some people like to generalize and say that we as a society are raising “whiners” but when it comes to sports, it’s hard not to disagree when the parents are the biggest whiners of all.

There will be missed calls and there will be bad referees. There will also be good calls and great referees so stop complaining and make sure the kids stop as well. Things happen in the blink of an eye and even experienced referees miss calls or make mistakes. Keep in mind that the referee who made a “bad call” is still one thousand times better at officiating than you will ever be, so keep quiet.

Teach your kids to take responsibility for their actions. If they are penalized for it, turn it into a learning experience and help them to not make that same infraction again. When a kid blames the referee for something that happens in the last minute of the game, ask them what they were doing for the 59 minutes before that.

Referees are an important part of sports and they should be respected, even if they are paid. When you show disrespect to a referee, you are showing disrespect to another human being and to authority. Would you as a parent yell at curse at a police officer for pulling you over even if you thought you didn’t deserve it? That is not a lesson you want to teach your kids and stop teaching your kids to hate the refs. The game will then be much more enjoyable for everyone. #RespectTheRefs


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