The title is supposed to be a provocative attention getter. Imagine an umpire at a baseball game or a lacrosse official or starter of a track meet turning to a person spectating and exclaim, with high volume and in an emphatic manner, “You Stink Buddy” simply because the individual disagreed with their decision. Of course I’ve watered down the title comment for the purpose of this article as there certainly have been more inappropriate and personalized remarks made than this one. Sounds ludicrous that an official would turn to someone in the crowd and do this right??? Why then is the opposite seemingly acceptable? The simple fact is, it isn’t and there is no place for it in high school “EDUCATION-BASED ATHLETICS”. Our adults should be doing adult things like modeling appropriate behavior.

As a person who has now coached three very different sports for nearly thirty years I am using my platform as high school coach and athletic director to express my frustration publicly. The title is not something which I believe but it is along a similar vein to comments which have been made repeatedly towards our officials, umpires and referees for years now. For some reason people think they have a right to express their opinions publicly regarding decisions being made during high school athletics contests. Is this person living vicariously through their child for something lost in their own childhood? Do they feel such entitlement that they are somehow better than the person working the game? Do they want others to see their posturing for their team as some sort of dramatic show of support? Are they such a know it all that they feel compelled to let everyone know their intelligence level? UGH!

The most uncomfortable moment for a high school athletics director is when we need to approach an irate person in the stands. Although we attempt to be as tactful as possible, diffuse the situation, maintain a high level of composure and attempt to take the high road, at the end of the day the result is almost always an embarrassed student, no change with the officials decision and an adult who regrets their actions. Of course not always.

At our last Section Athletic Council meeting Dr. Robert Zayas, the Executive Director of The New York State Public High School Athletic Association remarked to our council, “WE ARE IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY with regards to officials availability.” From my paraphrased notes of the meeting:   We are trying to streamline the certification process to get folks approved for the modified level.  How do we recruit new officials? Fan and spectator behavior continues to be the number one reason officials leave the profession.  What can we do about this? There is an effort at the state level to recruit officials underway and a strategic 5 year plan being developed to assist with this endeavor. None of this would need to be the case if adults would simply keep their mouths positive and directed at supporting their teams and athletes.

I have needed to personally reschedule or shuffle MANY contests this spring season because we simply don’t have enough referees or officials to fill game requests. Between the weather related changes, lack of officials and trying to share our athletes with their other events it has become increasingly more difficult to find dates to play our games. Those officials which have chosen to stay on are sometimes working eight or more consecutive nights in some instances as they are are committed to our youth and the profession. EVERYONE OF THEM should be thanked and applauded by you……….YES YOU! Without them, we wouldn’t be able to witness our students enjoying their high school athletics experience.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? If you would like to help with the problem rather than be the problem, think about signing on to officiate, referee, or umpire…..Please! If you don’t have the time or are too important to work athletic events, then sit down (or stand….that’s fine), enjoy a snack at the game, cheer for your team and LEAVE OUR OFFICIALS ALONE! Our student-athletes love participating and may lose the opportunity to do so if we continue to lose officials. The kids and the officials deserve better!

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