Berating game officials harmful to high school athletics

If you are the mother or father of a high school athlete, this message is primarily for you.

When you attend an athletic event that involves your son or daughter, cheer to your heart’s content, enjoy the camaraderie that high school sports offer and have fun. But when it comes to verbally criticizing game officials or coaches, cool it.

Make no mistake about it, your passion is admired, and your support of the hometown team is needed. But so is your self-control. Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the primary reason Florida has an alarming shortage of high school officials.

It’s true. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say “adult behavior” is the primary reason they quit. And 80 percent of all young officials hang up their stripes after just two years of whistle blowing. Why? They don’t need your abuse.

Plus, there’s a ripple effect. There are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them. If there are no officials, there are no games. The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in some areas that athletic events are being postponed or cancelled—especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels.

Research confirms that participation in high school sports and activities instills a sense of pride in school and community, teaches lifelong lessons like the value of teamwork and self-discipline and facilitates the physical and emotional development of those who participate. So, if the games go away because there aren’t enough men and women to officiate them, the loss will be infinitely greater than just an “L” on the scoreboard. It will be putting a dent in your community’s future.

If you would like to be a part of the solution to the shortage of high school officials, you can sign up to become a licensed official at Otherwise, adult role models at high school athletic events are always welcome.

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following is an opinion column from Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and George Tomyn, Executive Director of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). Over the last few years, we have seen it more and more often that parents have been causing a massive headache for officials associations across the entire state. Currently, there is a shortage for officials in all high school sports in the nation and it is parents who are the primary factor of why there is this shortage and will continue to be a shortage until something is done.

Our opinion on this is that parents need to cool it as well as the fans. The officials are human like we are. They work everyday jobs as we do. Officiating is not the primary job of most officials you see at any high school athletic event in this state. Adults (yes you the parents) should be serving as role models for our student-athletes, not humiliating them because you don’t like a call from the officiating crew. Officials go through hours and hours of training each and every year to learn new rules and to refresh on existing rules. The abuse by the adults must come to end sooner rather than later or the lights at your nearby high school stadium or gymnasium will no longer come on for high school athletic events in this state. How would you feel about that? Hopefully not good after reading this.

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