I remember being a pretty angry kid. I had a short fuse and if something did not go my way I would often erupt. Martial arts and lacrosse lengthened my anger fuse because I realized that I did not perform well when I was angry. I couldn’t focus on my next move because my mind was fixated on some slight from twenty seconds earlier. This didn’t mean that I lost my anger, but I did learn to channel it into a productive, rather than destructive, force.
As an official I am required to be emotionless. This is a complete impossibility but most people will forgive an official for showing some emotion during a game so long as that emotion is not anger. Coaches, players and parents are allowed to get angry but officials cannot show how pissed off they may be during a game. Once we show anger on the field we are screwed because in that moment we’ve been brought down to the same fighting level as the coach, player or parent we are addressing. At that point the battle is lost for the official. To combat this personally I’ve spent several years working on keeping a calm face in the storm of vitriol that can fly out of the mouths of angry people.
In my years involved with lacrosse as an arbiter of the rules who does not have any stake in any game that I officiate, I’ve found an interesting inverse relationship. An inverse relationship is when something decreases when something else increases or visa versa. In officiating lacrosse I’ve come to believe that parent anger is inversely proportional to player age. The younger a particular team the greater likelihood that angry parents will follow, while older players bring out the parental wrath less often.
This is relationship is not causal. It is merely a correlation that I’ve found is correct more often than not. It has been my experience, shared across many officials that I work with, that youth games can be difficult to work because of the adult coaches and parent spectators. Take them out of the equation and most of the players have a grand time, but younger teams generally have a greater chance of some adult losing their mind during a game.
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I do not have children. I cannot imagine how stressful and frustrating it is for a parent to watch their child take a big hit in a game and the officials not catch it. I can understand the anger a parent can have on the sideline when something big is missed because I get angry when I see officials miss a big illegal hit. What I do not understand is why a parent would yell vulgarities at a fifteen year old official during a 10-1 game for a missed offsides violation when that parent’s team happens to be winning.
I’ve met a lot of parents in my travels around the Southeast and the vast majority are great people who just want to enjoy the nice day. These are the parents that applaud when my crew and I kick out an angry instigator. I’m writing about the 1% of parents/coaches that get 100% of the news coverage because they act horribly.
If you are going to get angry about something get angry about missed safety violations. Then count to ten or do whatever you need to do to get a clear head and find a more rational way to get your point across. Talk to the coach after the game, write to the league administrator or official’s assignor, but don’t waste your energy on fruitless angry pursuits that will land you with a suspension, a possible court date, and a prime spot on your local news show.
For a very in-depth look at the physiological responses to getting angry check out this post: Mad = Angry + Crazy + Dumb – by Leon F. Seltzer Ph.D.