Everyone who has played sports on competitive teams has experienced that one parent who always bad-mouths the referee or umpire. At first, I have to admit, it’s pretty funny, especially when you can tell the parent is getting under the referee’s skin, however, there’s a point when that one parent needs to take a step back. When that point is reached, it becomes annoying and disrespectful, not just to the referee, but to the two teams competing.
Ridiculing a referee, in my book, is unjust, especially at young ages when the referees are volunteers. There is some leeway, however, from age 10 and up, the referees are usually students who are paid a fair amount of money. I, for one, am a Palo Alto Little League baseball umpire. I umpire majors, which is the highest league, and get paid above minimum wage. I will admit that I have blown some calls during my five year career and have gotten many “c’mon blue” from the parents in the stands, but every time I hear it, I just want to turn around and eject the parent from the game. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re a mediator for, you know when you’ve made a mistake and hearing parents say explicit words at you is the last thing you want to hear. Parents should understand that once a call is made, such as calling strike three on a kid, there’s no turning back. A call is final and once it is made, we’ve been trained to stand firm with our call.
My personal favorite parent in the stands is the “parent coach.” On every team I’ve played on there’s the one parent who tells every player what to do. For example, “don’t drop your back shoulder” on a baseball swing or “give it more arch” on a basketball shot. Parents, believe it or not, it’s not helpful—it’s unconstructive. Once the game starts, there’s no time for players to fix their mechanics. One of my baseball coaches once told me after a game that I was dipping my shoulder. I asked him why he didn’t tell me during the game, and his response was that if he did, I would try to fix it and it would cause something else to go wrong, which would not benefit me. By the coach informing me after the game of my mistakes, I could then contemplate overnight about how I could fix them and use my knowledge to work on mechanics the next day at practice. Therefore, parents, while we players appreciate your support, please allow the coaches to do their jobs and the players to do theirs.
Some parents might be wondering: if we can’t yell at the referee or coach the kids, what can we do? You can simply support us. For example, saying, “go [insert name], you can do this” or “you’ll get it next time” when something goes wrong are both appropriate things to say. However, don’t feel like you’re being limited on things you can say; I encourage you to be creative and support us through the good and bad times. The one thing I’m asking of you is to not harass the referees and the opposing team’s players and parents and to not coach us. As players, we’re grateful you support and cheer for us, and we appreciate that you come out rain or shine. We know that all you want is for us to succeed and win, but please have a filter. Respect the referees, respect the opposing team and respect the game.