That’s no ref, that’s my son!

Every game you go to, in every sport, you hear it. Coaches, parents, and often times players, complaining about the refs. The ref cost us the game. The ref is a homer. The ref just outright sucks. Well, don’t worry, Stripes. I’ve got your back.

Why would I defend the most universally hated people on the sports planet (well, next to this guy)? Not because it’s really just a bunch of whining, which it is, and excuse making, which it is, but because it does a disservice to the coaches, the players, and the refs. That’s right. Here’s why you need to get off big Blue’s back.

VWrefJLA1. The ref didn’t win or lose the game (unless you are the Green Bay Packers)
The ref didn’t score a goal. The ref didn’t make a save. He didn’t get a hit, or make a double play. You play the game, the ref officiates the game. Do calls sometimes go your way? Yes. Do calls sometimes go against you? Yes. But the outcome is up to the players and no good coach or player will ever blame a referee for a win or a loss. When you pin a game’s outcome on the ref, you take away the responsibility, and the credit, from the players and coaches. You didn’t win because of a ref’s call. You won because you hustled to the loose puck, grabbed a rebound, or executed a bunt. And you lost because the other team did those things better. Blaming the ref is a disservice to everyone and a discredit to the spirit of competition.

2. You want good refs? Be a good sport.
When my oldest signed up for a ref clinic, a hockey coach friend of ours said, “Good Lord, what kind of parents are you who would do that to your own kid?” Every time a ref steps on the ice, the field or the court, he or she is subjected to extreme scrutiny and ridiculous pressure under ludicrously hostile conditions. Talk about a learn on the job situation. Is it any wonder that many leagues turn over half of their officials from year to year? Here’s a great take on that from Ross Bonander from The Hockey Writers.

3. You’ve got to start somewhere.
Your 6U soccer team isn’t going to have a FIFA level officiating staff on the field with them. The officials themselves are probably just a few years older than the players. The most self-assured 15 year old is generally not equipped to deal with out-of-control belligerent coaches and parents, with maybe the exception of this girl. After this interaction didn’t take care of business, she gave Dad a red card and tossed him.  And then there’s this news report of the 13 year-old ref ejecting a coach and unrepentent mom.Why do we think this is acceptable behavior by adults? And next time you start to yell “Ref, you suck!” remember that it’s someone’s kid out there.

4. Nobody here is a pro.
When you’ve got millions of dollars worth of salaries on the field and you’re playing in the Super Bowl, you can expect a pro level of officiating. But in youth sports, Tom Coughlin isn’t on your staff, Eli Manning isn’t on your roster, and Ed Hochuli isn’t making the calls. There aren’t any million dollar payoffs here, so lighten up, Francis!

5. But it’s their job!
Yes, folks, it’s true. They get paid to officiate games. Because, honestly, who would do it otherwise? Officials pay registration fees and shell out money to attend certification clinics, they buy their own uniforms. They take tests and get evaluated. It’s not a hobby.  Just like you, they take their job seriously and try very hard to do it right. No official ever walks into a game planning to make a bad call. Every single one is trying to do the best job they can. And sometimes, they screw up. It’s going to happen. That doesn’t give you the right to scream at them. Just let it go.

6. Perspective
You think that you watch a lot of sports? That’s nothing compared to what a game official sees. And here’s what refs have that you don’t– a sense of perspective that spans many teams, many age levels and many skill levels. There’s a graduated scale that they take into consideration when making a call. That’s why a hooking call in Midget hockey is a different call than in Squirt hockey. A strike zone in the 10U division is a lot different than in the 16U division. And a rec game is different from an elite level game. Refs have the perspective to know what is appropriate for each level and they know that if they called a trip every time two Mite players got tangled up and one fell down, it would be a constant parade to the box.

And so . . 
I have seen some games where I thought the refs missed some things, or approached the game the wrong way, or were just plain lousy. But I zip it because in any game, there are things you can’t control, the officiating being one if them. As a coach or spectator, you’ve got every right to expect that your game official will hustle to be in position, know the rules, and be prepared to do the job with the right equipment in working condition. After that, just line up and play the game and let your genius coaching strategy and hard-working players take care of the results.

2 Comments on “That’s no ref, that’s my son!”

  1. Kevin Barkume says:

    Nice post Laurie. From the perspective of a Dad, coach and spectator, I admit I’ve grumbled and shaken my head a few times, but I think it’s important to keep everything in perspective. I once saw a 12U league championship softball game called by a sanctioned adult ump in a Hooters tank top, but I shook his hand and said “Good game Blue,” after the game. At times I’ve thought about signing up. But if I’m not willing to commit the time, money and sanity, how can I criticize?

  2. Lynne says:

    Words to live by, Laurie. If more parents and players thought like this, sports would be a whole lot more fun for everyone; officials included. It’s definitely a challenge to keep it zipped and I can admit that I’m a work in progress. I really think bad or missed calls have a way of balancing out. For nearly every missed call that has gone against our daughters’ softball team, I can think of a call that went our way that clearly should not have. So, if we take our lumps with grace and accept our, “Christmas gifts,” in the same manner, sanity has a better chance to prevail. Not to mention, our kids learn by example. We’ve all seen the kid who grumbles about every call or has shown unsportsmanlike behavior. Take a look at the parents. Kids live what they know. They picked up that behavior from somewhere and most likely it came from home. Merry Christmas to you and yours! Lynne P.S. Thanks for, “Lighten up, Frances!!!” LOVE IT!

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