Please Make it Stop
by Ryan Krzykowski
I wrote on this topic not long ago, but last weekend it happened again. We were watching 10-12 year old boys play football, and the officials threw flags on successive plays. Were the penalties deserved? Probably, but who knows? Does it really matter? What happened next can be summed up in one word — UGLY. A handful of grown people, both men and women, went off the rails. They were so very angry, screaming vicious insults at the officials. “You’re an absolute joke, ref”, was one that I heard a couple times.
As a society of supposedly mature, intelligent adults, what could possibly make someone think that’s an OK thing to do? That directing those comments at another human being is acceptable? Never mind that the target of the venom is someone who is, at least presumably, earning a minimal amount of money and committed to doing the very best job he can. Do we really think some guy on a Saturday night is out to cheat a bunch of 5th and 6th graders? It takes a special kind of conspiracy theorist to buy into that.
So what are we doing? How do we justify the berating of officials? I actually overheard a (borderline insane) answer to that question, as I later heard one of the screamers say to his group, “the way I look at it, if the ref’s doing a bad job, somebody needs to let him know”. I actually won’t disagree with that statement. If he’s doing that bad of a job, someone should certainly let him know. However, that someone is NOT sitting in the stands, and that conversation should be handled with dignity. There is nothing dignified about screaming at someone who’s doing a job that he is an absolute joke. Can you imagine if you or I showed up at screamer guy’s place of business on Monday morning and began yelling at him about what a joke he is? It’s kind of fun to think about, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be appreciated. But in that moment he was the one who was an absolute joke, at least as it relates to providing an example for young kids.
Coaches, let’s please do our part to deal with this issue. Stop tolerating spectator abuse of officials. We have the power and opportunity to help fix this problem. Set clear expectations at the very beginning of the season. Draw a line and hold your ground. You might ruffle some feathers, but our kids are worth the effort. They deserve to play in a healthy environment characterized by joy rather than anger and disharmony.