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Author Topic: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse  (Read 752 times)

HockeyDad

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/verbal-abuse-from-parents-coaches-is-causing-a-referee-shortage-in-youth-and-high-school-sports/2017/06/16/cf02a016-499a-11e7-a186-60c031eab644_story.html?utm_term=.cc05019ae146

Disturbing numbers coming out of this article from the Washington Post. I am curious what OUR referee think / believe about this trend.

Soccer is not alone in its troubles. Mid-Atlantic Officials, one of the D.C. area’s largest referee assigning groups for baseball, is enduring its worst shortage of umpires and referees in more than 25 years, according to Commissioner John Porter. Only about half of the umpires who complete one year are back for a second year, and the five-to-seven year attrition rate hovers around 80 percent. In football, the Fairfax County Football Officials Association has experienced a 40 percent drop over the last three years, according to an estimate by referee assignor Andre Jones.

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Oneblindmouse

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2017, 11:17:23 AM »

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/verbal-abuse-from-parents-coaches-is-causing-a-referee-shortage-in-youth-and-high-school-sports/2017/06/16/cf02a016-499a-11e7-a186-60c031eab644_story.html?utm_term=.cc05019ae146

Disturbing numbers coming out of this article from the Washington Post. I am curious what OUR referee think / believe about this trend.

Soccer is not alone in its troubles. Mid-Atlantic Officials, one of the D.C. area’s largest referee assigning groups for baseball, is enduring its worst shortage of umpires and referees in more than 25 years, according to Commissioner John Porter. Only about half of the umpires who complete one year are back for a second year, and the five-to-seven year attrition rate hovers around 80 percent. In football, the Fairfax County Football Officials Association has experienced a 40 percent drop over the last three years, according to an estimate by referee assignor Andre Jones.


In my tenure as a referee and now a bd member, I would say that things are definitely getting worse.  We have always had a very high attrition rate among the youth referees, they are teenagers for the most part - 80% is probably a good number.  Adults will almost invariably stick it out for 3-5 yrs before having enough.  What I really seeing as getting worse is the type of abuse.  The incidences of personal attacks, threats of violence, and profanity laden dissent from the sidelines have all increased.  Remembering that the majority of referees are under the age of 20, we are asking kids to subject themselves to all this, from "their" parents. 

I don't know how it is in other sports, I only officiate for soccer, but all of the anecdotal evidence I see/hear is that this is across the board.  Maybe not as bad in other sports where the professionals are held to a high standard of conduct, but in soccer where it seems to be part and parcel to abuse officials at the professional levels (with no support from the four letter organization in charge) this "standard of conduct" has trickled down to the youngest of ages.

Of all the ex-referees I talk to, the vast majority list abuse as the reason they stopped. 
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"In the opinion of the referee"....such a short phrase....wait!  whaddya mean it doesn't say that anymore!!!

silverdad

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2017, 02:33:42 PM »

Abuse is the reason I stopped officiating.  I could take it from the parents, I was conditioned to expect that most of them are raving lunatics who have no idea what it is like to referee and no idea what they are talking about.  But, when I signed up in response to solicitation from my club to be a "ref-in-pool", I did not expect my own club's coaches to be abusive to the point of driving me away.

Case in point: game between two young U-10 C teams from prominent local premier clubs is tied 1-1 late.  Defensive player kicks it back to his keeper, keeper picks it up with his hands inside his own penalty area.  It might have appeared from a distance to be an unintentional pass-back, except that I was standing right there on the field (while the coaches were 30 yards away), I could see the players eyes, and I heard the keeper call for the ball.  Reluctantly, I had to blow the whistle for a kick.  My own club's coach throws a conniption fit at me, says things that will lead his boys to completely disrespect me as a ref, then goes over to the other coach and convinces him to tell his kid to kick the free kick out of bounds in protest of the call.  Sorry, life is too short.  Happy to volunteer and help, but not under those circumstances.  If a club wants parents to volunteer to referee, its own coaches shouldn't treat the parent referees like that.
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lester

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2017, 10:18:43 PM »

This has bugged me for 20 years.  Two things stand out to me that have change a bit over the last 15 years or so.

First is older, experienced referees hear the abuse and shrug it off.  They are the ones that need to eject a coach for dissent, verbal abuse, disrespect, whatever... the first time they hear it.   Referees train coaches to be respectful or not to be.  Clubs will keep coaches that can stay on the field and get rid of coaches that get their games forfeited because of their mouths.
If a referee doesn't want that coach chasing away newer referees, he has to take action; the bigger the stage, the stronger the message.

Second, having fans on the opposite side to the field from the coach.  In youth soccer, the coach is responsible for their behavior, how can he do it when he's across the field?  Parents and players follow their coach's lead on respecting the referee (or the authority of the positon).  If a coach yells, they all follow suit.  Now, we're back to ejecting the coach.     If you aren't on the Sounders, you need to be close enough to your kids parents to keep them in line and teach them to respect the game and its laws.

In soccer, at least, this is too easy to fix.  Just do it, refs, what are you waiting for?  Send the coach off.
For their language, their players language, or their player's parents language.

That's my opinion on that.
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tripleplay

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2017, 02:02:30 AM »

Lester, though I agree with your first point, you apparently haven't been in a HS stadium in awhile. Fans are much more likely to be loud, hostile and obnoxious when surrounded by their own kind.

And let's be at least slightly accurate. 99.9% of dissent is not abusive. And, unfortunately, dissent from fans and coaches is 99.9% of the feedback that refs get. Referees don't police themselves and don't accept thoughtful feedback from the hated "outsiders". So we are left with yelling fans, coaches and players, and a system where refs "succeed" by having thick skins (solution - increase the intensity of the screaming) not by being quality refs. That's a feature of the system, not a bug.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2017, 02:09:43 AM by tripleplay »
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bubbasaurus

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2017, 08:48:58 AM »

I'd be curious to find out how many true evaluations referees get per year. My guess would be zero based on almost 10 years of experience as a ref. I've had one that I can remember, but it was in a really easy game. It should be done both by letting a ref know in advance and "secret shopper" style.

As a coach, there are some ref associations who take our feedback on referees seriously (Seattle), where others will completely blow it off. I've even sent in video and some ref associations still don't seem to care.

I've seen crazy parent stuff all the way down to U-9 rec where parents confronted a 12-year-old ref after the game (fortunately I was there to stop it as a board member). There need to be consequences when a coach or parent does something like this, but I have yet to see that happen in any meaningful way.
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BothellSoccerDad

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2017, 08:45:04 PM »

I'd be curious to find out how many true evaluations referees get per year. My guess would be zero based on almost 10 years of experience as a ref. I've had one that I can remember, but it was in a really easy game. It should be done both by letting a ref know in advance and "secret shopper" style.

As a coach, there are some ref associations who take our feedback on referees seriously (Seattle), where others will completely blow it off. I've even sent in video and some ref associations still don't seem to care.

I've seen crazy parent stuff all the way down to U-9 rec where parents confronted a 12-year-old ref after the game (fortunately I was there to stop it as a board member). There need to be consequences when a coach or parent does something like this, but I have yet to see that happen in any meaningful way.

I know that the RCL will suspend a parent or coach for the full season if they step onto the field to confront the ref, so there are some consequences happening somewhere.
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tripleplay

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2017, 02:23:59 AM »

What I really seeing as getting worse is the type of abuse.  The incidences of personal attacks, threats of violence, and profanity laden dissent from the sidelines have all increased.
Please quantify. How many threats of violence do you experience in a year?

Personally I only have one recollection of such a threat involving a referee, and in that particular case it was the referee threatening the (very obnoxious) fan after the game! But I am usually among middle-aged suburbanites which probably isn't representative. And I am not saying that I have any tolerance for this behavior, but stuff that makes a dramatic story only coincidentally describes reality.
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Oneblindmouse

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2017, 09:02:16 AM »

What I really seeing as getting worse is the type of abuse.  The incidences of personal attacks, threats of violence, and profanity laden dissent from the sidelines have all increased.
Please quantify. How many threats of violence do you experience in a year?

Personally I only have one recollection of such a threat involving a referee, and in that particular case it was the referee threatening the (very obnoxious) fan after the game! But I am usually among middle-aged suburbanites which probably isn't representative. And I am not saying that I have any tolerance for this behavior, but stuff that makes a dramatic story only coincidentally describes reality.

Me personally, I have only been threatened once in my career.  As a board member, I see all of the reports (that are filed).  Lester is correct, a lot of the older/experienced refs have developed too thick a skin for the behavior we are all really talking about, so not all situations get reported or properly dealt with.  Looking back over the years of reports, there is an increasing trend of parents/coaches making threats of violence towards referees in our area.  Now is this happening every other game, no, to be honest I am talking about a handful of incidents for last year alone.  Three of the reported incidents involved referees under the age of 18, and one reported incident with an adult referee.  I am not looking to over-dramatize this topic, but merely relate what I have seen.   Prior years only show 1 or 2 incidents.  We, as a board, have made it a point to emphasize in all training sessions that referee abuse is not to be tolerated, and that it needs to be reported and dealt with appropriately.  Our local clubs are stepping up and helping to wave this flag as well, seeing as how they also recognize the effects of the referee shortage. 
The personal attacks comment is more about the comments being made "personal" towards the referee - ie, instead of "bad call!!" it is "ref, you suck!"  A trend that, in my opinion, shows an erosion of the respect towards the position of referee - people are more willing to be direct in their comments rather than just venting steam (which I totally get....).
Maybe I am just too old fashioned, but the profanity laced "venting steam" comments are a pet peeve of mine.  Some would say that this is okay at the older levels, but young kids show up to older games - younger siblings and such.  Young kids learn by example, if it is okay at the older levels, then it must be okay for them??.... Who among you likes to be cursed at for 60-90 minutes??  It just wears on you and sucks the enjoyment out of the game.
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"In the opinion of the referee"....such a short phrase....wait!  whaddya mean it doesn't say that anymore!!!

Oneblindmouse

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2017, 09:56:52 AM »

And let's be at least slightly accurate. 99.9% of dissent is not abusive. And, unfortunately, dissent from fans and coaches is 99.9% of the feedback that refs get. Referees don't police themselves and don't accept thoughtful feedback from the hated "outsiders". So we are left with yelling fans, coaches and players, and a system where refs "succeed" by having thick skins (solution - increase the intensity of the screaming) not by being quality refs. That's a feature of the system, not a bug.
True, the vast majority of the comments aren't abusive.  I do find it interesting that your first sentence talks about accuracy, slight though it may be, but you then use a specific number with no basis??..... 99.9%???  I would grant somewhere in the 80-95% range, but then I have never conducted a "scientific" study - and what/who will be the determiner for abusive vs mere dissent (which by the way is still contrary to the LOTG). 
And True, the sideline commentary is the VAST majority of the feedback we receive.  I know that most of the referee associations have some sort of feedback mechanism in place, and I know that most of the associations don't do a good enough job of advertising it.  As a bd member I see all of the feedback we get, and I wish I could say that we get a lot, but we don't and a lot of the feedback isn't very useful - "ref sucked" "ref was great" - no description of what "sucked", so no idea if it is just a sour grapes feedback or one that we can actually take to the ref and discuss with them.
As for the "don't police themselves" and "don't accept thoughtful feedback" comments, what is your concrete evidence to back up this accusation?  How many feedback review meetings have you sat in on?  How many discipline meetings have you been a part of?  Just curious.
I think Lester is more correct on why we are "left with yelling fans, coaches, and players", we older/experienced refs have allowed our thicker skin to perpetuate and grow the problem. 
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"In the opinion of the referee"....such a short phrase....wait!  whaddya mean it doesn't say that anymore!!!

tripleplay

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Re: Youth / High School Referee Shortages linked to verbal abuse
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2017, 09:40:03 AM »

Good points. What I was noting is that ref dissatisfaction doesn't stem from anything remotely abusive, but from the fact that refs have an unfulfilled sense of entitlement (to constant positive feedback)

And if you have a reffing pool seeded with soccer Dads (because that's who other soccer-Dads-turned-ref want to recruit) and survival determined dominantly by how thick your skin is, it's not a formula for creating a highly-esteemed group.

I don't think the once-per-career events are the issue.
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