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Sideline Parents, Take it Easy on our Youth Referees!

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Any parent who has a child who is a referee is aware of the verbal abuse referees take. Certainly I’ve become more cognizant of it since my kids have started officiating games.

Youth referees often don’t want to work the field on the parents side…and with good reason. Some parents turn into raving lunatics at their kid’s games. The unfortunate thing is, kids learn from their parents and model that behavior. When you see a player being rude or disrespectful to a referee, it’s often a learned behavior…a side effect of poor sportsmanship from the parent.

The next time you feel the urge to yell at a youth referee over a call, take a deep breath and remember that is someone else’s kid you are yelling at. Would you someone to treat your kid that way? The same goes for comments…if you wouldn’t want someone to repeat it, then maybe you shouldn’t say it.

Youth Referees

Here’s some other common sense rules of thumb for the sideline parent:

Don’t yell at the referees over calls that don’t go your way.

Whether the referees are kids or adults, they aren’t perfect, and they aren’t going to make the right call all the time. However, 99.9% of the time, they are going to make a better call than you, the biased parent. Yes, I called you biased. Every parent out there is biased towards their own kid, myself included. Years ago, my oldest son was refereeing a U9 boys game and called a handball in the box.  He was on the side, and only called it because the center ref wasn’t in a good position to see it. The parents of the team which the call was against started yelling at my son, who, to his credit, completely ignored them.  But he said to me afterwards, “Mom, one, it WAS a handball in the box and two, its a U9 game!” He just couldn’t understand why the parents were getting so worked up over a game.  To him, the most important thing was that the young athletes learn the rules, and interestingly enough, not one of the kids on the field appeared upset. But you can bet if the parent is yelling at the referee, the kid is going to learn that that is okay.

Don’t yell “thank you” every time a call goes your way.

This seems to be a big thing these days. Unless you are also going to thank the referee for the calls that don’t go your way, keep the sarcastic “thank you’s” to yourself. It’s obnoxious and annoying. My husband, who thinks he’s a funny guy, gets so frustrated when people do this, that the other day he started thanking a youth referee that he knew for calls against our team, because he felt like they were good calls.

Don’t make a youth referee turn around and tell you how to behave.

Who’s the adult here? A kid should not have to reprimand an adult that is behaving badly. My daughter became a referee last year. A couple seasons ago she actually turned around and told a group of parents that were making negative comments, “I’ll have to ask you to refrain from making negative comments about the other team’s players.” Maybe she should have simply ignored them, but I’m actually kind of proud that she made the comment. Maybe it’ll make those parents think about their behavior on the sidelines. Maybe not, but I’d like to think we are all inherently good and sometimes just get caught up in the moment. And just because you think something doesn’t mean you should say it out loud. What if that kid’s parents are sitting in the next chair down, and can hear you? How would you feel if the tables were turned?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m perfect, because I’m not. I’m biased towards my own kids’ teams, just as much as the next parent. I know I’ve made that ridiculous “thank you” comment in the past. I think at times we all say things we wish we hadn’t. But I’m trying to learn from my mistakes, as we all should.

The next time you’re sitting on the sidelines at your child’s game, try to remember it’s just a game. And sit back and enjoy it.

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Chris Carter

Monday 2nd of June 2014

LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS Michelle! You are making such great points here. I am so proud of your daughter for speaking up. I hope those parents respected her wishes. What a shame...

I see this stuff at every game, and it amazes me to no end that parents behave like this. I too can get excited and angry etc. But it's awful how out of control and inappropriate parents can be when they are upset! I can only imagine this getting worse as Cade gets older... ugh.

catherine gacad

Wednesday 28th of May 2014

i haven't experienced this type of bad behavior. i can only imagine. my goodness, the poor kids!


Wednesday 28th of May 2014

This is a GREAT post! I don't have kids in sports anymore but I've often been surprised at how mean parents are to the refs and the kids! Come on! Let's be a good example for the kids and be nice!!! It's one thing to yell at the ref on tv but it's another to yell at a real person who can hear you. (I confess, I have occasionally yelled at the ref during a football game - but I was watching it on tv and he couldn't hear me - I would never do it in public!)


Tuesday 27th of May 2014

Great tips Michelle. I'm not a sports mom, so I don't encounter this much but I've been to enough of my little brother's soccer and ball hockey games to want to crawl under my seat and cry. Those poor referees!

Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the SHINE Blog Hop).

Wishing you a lovely day. xoxo


Tuesday 27th of May 2014

I would be definitely be the parent referee. Any time I'd spot a parent going way too hard at a youth referee I'd have to bench a parent. I just can't...