The youth sports discussion focuses very much on kids’ experience in playing youth sports, and how those experiences (positive or negative) determine an athlete’s choice to continue playing. However, not enough attention deals with the other members of that youth sports community who end up on the receiving end of negative outbursts and attitude: umpires and referees.
Our partner organization, Athletes for a Better World (ABW), wrote a Tip of the Week about umpires and referees, and how the playing environment can affect more than just the players.
According to ABW, “it is not uncommon for there to be only about one third of those who begin continuing into a third season. Why? Some of it is financial – they just don’t make very much money, but by far the reason is what we would all expect: the way they are treated by players and fans.”
A 2015 article titled “Are Umpires for Youth Sports a Dying Breed” talks about the rewards and challenges of working as a youth sports umpire. Those who choose to become an umpire do so for a variety of reasons: extra money, loving the sport, staying active. But those same umpires often face a difficult work environment.
As ABW says, “too many kids think it’s acceptable to trash talk an official, and too many parents and zealous fans are abusive from the safety of the crowd.”
As a sports community, we need to work on toning down the negative playing environment while keeping a competitive spirit. Sometimes it can be hard to do both! But the goal of sports is now (and should always be) having fun.
“Are we making the games our kids play, and the games we play fun for everyone? Sure, we are competitive; sure, we want to win; but something is more important than winning and losing.”
The ABW “Code for Living” lays out a number of guidelines for how we should be playing (and living). And the spirit of that Code reminds us that we should be holding ourselves to a higher standard than the rules of the game we’re playing at any given time.
Like ABW says, “It’s good to remember Grantland Rice: “When the one Great Scorer comes to mark by your name, he marks not that you won nor lost, but how you played the game.”’
Athletes for a Better World promotes sportsmanship, character-building, and excellence in citizenship.