KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — If you have kids playing sports you may have shouted at an official after a missed or bad call no matter what sport you are watching. Sometimes parents and coaches can take it too far, causing some referees to say, “we’re not coming back.”
“Is the money worth the abuse?” It’s a question so many referees in youth sports ask themselves before a new season begins.
“It’s kind of an epidemic across all sports right now. We are seeing it at every level and all sports,” said Keith Grooms, the Middle Tennessee supervisor for USA Hockey. “One of the main, if not the major factor, is abuse of officials and that’s coming for mainly parents. More so than any other portion of that.”
Due to this shortage, referees are getting paid more. The higher cost to find referees makes it more expensive for kids to play.
“There is a supply and demand issue now too. With the verbal abuse of officials, we have pay for these guys’ time,” Grooms said.
Not enough refs means games need to be rescheduled or even get cancelled all together.
“Over the last couple of years I can count several,” said Mike Craigen, Director of Hockey at Cool Sports in Knoxville. “We have just had to reschedule the games. They were eventually played but we had to reschedule because we didn’t have qualified officials to be on the ice to ref.”
USA Hockey in it’s regulars Zoom meetings said it retains only half of it’s first-year officials.
“A lot of officials, even if they’ve been doing it for a while, they get a lot of this verbal abuse,” Jason Messimore, U.S.A Hockey’s Supervisor for East Tennessee said. “Eventually, they’re just going to say, ‘You know what, forget this. I don’t need this. I don’t need this extra stress and I don’t need to be yelled at.'”
Rules are in place to try to prevent abuse of officials. Most rule books clearly state parents need to behave in a responsible manner while watching their kids play.
For now, the trend of an official shortage has no signs of slowing down. We are told that becoming an official is a lucrative job and anyone can do it. When it comes to youth sports, it is important for parents to know that these officials, like the players, are not professionals.