Sullivan Sports Center: Parents aggravate referees, youth leagues affected

With an increase in parents harassing and belittling referees in youth sporting events, many volunteers have stepped down from their positions. Parents have begun to ruin their children’s games.


Referees across the country have begun to resign, some even mid-game, due to parents challenging their every move with behavior that is ruining the integrity of adolescent leagues.
Putting children into sports such as baseball, football and basketball is a popular option among many parents to open them to new experiences.
The last thing any of these kids need is for their games to be interrupted by spectators that are not even involved in the game itself.
Kids learn from their parents and other adults, following by example.
If they see a constant show of disrespect towards referees and umpires, figures of authority, it is going to teach children that this behavior is acceptable.
When children start to act like their parents and lash out at officials, it will do nothing but ruin the experience for everyone involved.
Players need to experience moments of character building and integrity, not parents making a mockery of the sport.
With these outbursts of ridicule, there is also the issue concerning the lack of volunteers for refereeing across the country.
Finding people to officiate a little league game of any sport is already difficult.
There aren’t many of those willing to participate.
The last thing that is needed are more reasons to push potential referees away from working in these leagues.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there has been a loss of about 50,000 referees and umpires nationwide since the 2018-2019 season.
Many of these losses are due to parent harassment.
“People don’t think it’s worth it to take the abuse, so they find other ways to make money,” youth and high school basketball referee Bill Wickes said.
The skills that are required for the job are not found in many, but now, even those who are skilled are being pushed away.
If a nationwide solution isn’t enforced soon, there could be a loss of many youth leagues.
So, what is the solution?
While no definitive, agreed-upon solution has been officially introduced, one youth baseball league in New Jersey may have just the thing.
A league in Deptford Township, New Jersey has developed a plan that forces parents to endure their own actions.
If a parent harasses an umpire and is removed from the facility, they have to be an umpire for at least three games of Little League baseball until they are allowed to return as a spectator.
This is a possible solution to the problem and is arguably the most effective way to stop spectators from interfering with the game. Forcing them to referee will show them the skills that are required to do such a job and change their whole perspective.
Whether this becomes a mainstream rule or a different countermeasure appears, something needs to be done.
The future of youth sports depends on it.