WHEN DOES SIDELINE BEHAVIOR CAUSE OFFICIALS TO QUIT?
“I did not like being a referee one bit, and I’m very happy to be done with it. It was very stressful, and I hated all of it. I will never do it again.”
That’s what my grandson said about his experience as a referee in youth soccer. His is one voice echoing a trend that sports writers like Doug Abrams, an expert in youth sports, have been noticing for years: the exodus of referees from youth games. “Referees,” Abrams writes, “quit in droves each year because they are unwilling to tolerate incessant verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse inflicted by coaches and especially by parents. … An official’s thick skin eventually wears thin, patience with unruliness wanes, and enough is enough.”
My grandson’s departure from the ranks of sports officials is a loss — for him, for the players and for the sport. He became a sports official because he loves sports, especially soccer and lacrosse, both of which he plays well, and because he really likes young kids. He has a good eye. He sees the field, understands the games and can spot the sometimes subtle distinctions between a foul and an unintentional bump that doesn’t affect the ongoing play. He participated happily in the referee‑training program and looked forward to having a job in a world he loved. And like so many others, he quit.