Thursday, June 10, 2010

When the adults chase refs to the locker room

What's the worst thing you've ever seen happen to a ref or umpire at a youth sports game?

I heard some doozeys recently while working on this article for the New York Times.

A football official in Oregon told me about being chased from the field to the locker room after a game, then having adults pounding on the door trying to get in.

A basketball ref, also in Oregon, recalled being doused with a large cup of soda.

A basketball official in Ohio remembered working a rec league game last season in which the parents on the losing side took umbrage at a couple of close calls. A disturbing chant began building on their side of the court: Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech.

The consequence of all this is that lots of qualified officials are heading for the exits. As the story explains, shortages of umps and refs in volleyball, football, soccer, among others, have cropped up in many parts of the country. In multiple surveys, when officials are asked why they're quitting, they cite fans and coaches who give them a rough time. Too much of a hassle, they say, for 40 bucks or whatever the going rate might be.

When people talk about the damage that's done when adults get out of hand at kids' sports games, this isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But ask the folks who're searching for officials. It's a problem.

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