I was on the far side in a game that I was working some time ago. Red player was legally body checked by the White player and I saw no reason to throw my flag. A spectator in the stands yelled out, “Don’t you have to take a class to ref? Maybe you should take it again.” I permitted myself a small smile. Unbeknownst to that particular fan, I am one of the officials responsible for teaching youth and adult officials classes for the entire state of Georgia. I didn’t do anything about that spectator because I was in a competitive high school playoff game, and I was twenty-four. I’ve spent the last five years growing as a lacrosse official, and over those years I’ve learned to shut out the cacophony of verbal tirades unleashed upon me by those who have likely never read the rulebook or stepped onto the field as an impartial arbitrator. I do not require protection from these absurd comments, but the youth officials I work with do.
Parents complain to everyone when an adult coach curses at their child or their child’s team within earshot of the parent, but I have yet to witness a parent or group of parents confront an adult spectator who is berating and cursing a teenage youth official. Instead, I see these spectators turn. They hear one or two adults verbally attack a sixteen-year-old official, and they jump on the “abuse the kid ref” bandwagon because they don’t want to chance that the youth official will make calls against their team because of the comments from an opposing spectator. So they even out the verbal abuse, just to keep things fair.
From our early days of YMCA LAX I never permitted any spectator to insult or aggressively question any of my youth officials. I maintain that policy at AYL today for one reason – I need these youth officials.
I need these youth officials to keep and grow their interest in officiating lacrosse. By knowing the rules and their application they become better lacrosse players, which benefits the teams they play for. Also, when these youth refs graduate high school and go off to college they have a foundation in officiating that any Lacrosse Officials Association (LOA) would be happy to build upon. We need to keep youth officials in the officiating pipeline for as long as possible to support the continued growth of lacrosse all over the country.
I’ve worked with adult officials who could not take the endless criticism and are no longer officiating because it, “was not worth the abuse.” Men over forty stop officiating in every sport every year because of that reason, and we have the collective gall to assume that a sixteen-year-old kid is actually being “toughened up” by the sideline vitriol. Eventually that sixteen-year-old gives up officiating even though it pays better than a job at the local movie theatre. I’ve worked with many youth refs over the years and I can tell you unequivocally that they are much tougher than you give them credit for. In fact, I would wager a good amount of money that if I took a mom or dad screaming at the top of their lungs off the sideline and shoved them onto the field with a flag and a whistle that they would quickly realize how tough officiating youth lacrosse is.
It takes a village to raise a youth official, and every adult present at youth games has a responsibility to stand up for a kid who is trying to manage a competitive lacrosse game between children wearing body armor and carrying batons. They have enough to focus on without worrying about what piercing comment is coming next from some parent in a lawn chair.
So the next time you are watching your child play and some other adult is losing his or her mind, go and tell that person to start acting like an adult. If you do not feel comfortable doing that alone then find the league administrator or adult staff member and ask them to address the angry parent.
If you are interested in being trained as a Boy’s Lacrosse Youth Official (14-18) please visit: http://atlantalacrosseofficial.com/2013/10/spring-training-dates-announced-for-new-youth-officials/
If you are interested in being trained as a Boy’s High School Lacrosse Official (18+) please visit: http://galaxref.com/training/adult-officials/new-adult-officials-registration/
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