Parents out of control at local sports games—it’s a problem we’ve seen in the past, and some say it’s getting worse.
With new sports seasons just days away, referees are expressing their biggest concerns—and the steps they’d like to see taken to feel safer.
Yelling, verbal abuse, and in some cases being followed to their car: these are the safety issues referees are dealing with. In many cases, the culprits are parents.
“We’ve had situations where my crew has come off a field and there’s been people swearing, obscenities, and I’m like “are you kidding me?’” said Paul Blasi, a football referee.
“[A parent] told us how bad we were, and a lot of other languages,” said Karen. “ Let us know that he was very unhappy with us, and more or less followed us right through the crowd screaming at us all the way,” said Karen, who serves as a field hockey referee in the fall.
The result of these altercations is a referee shortage—in part due to the fear of being harassed when they step onto the field.
“You’re going to take a little bit of abuse out there,” said Blasi. “You’re going to hear it from the coaches, you’re going to hear it from the fans. It’s getting harder for us to get new refs because nobody wants to come in and take the abuse.”
Abuse: an increasingly popular word used among referees to describe the way certain parents treat them. However, the referees aren’t the only ones impacted by the hurtful words that leave the mouths of unsatisfied parents.
“I’ve had a child yell at her mother to shut up,” said Schneck. “She was totally embarrassed and I’m thinking ‘well good for you that you could stand up to your parents, but something needs to be done.”
The referees want solutions—and fast. One suggestion made is a mandatory escort to walk refs to their cars after games. Another: crowd control.
Athletic Directors like Chris Campolieta are ready to listen to suggestions and make changes. His district, Baldwinsville, has a spectator policy laid out in a document that spectators must sign before the first game. It’s a three offense policy—the more issues caused, the harsher the consequences.
“It’s nice to know that we at least have something in writingto have a conversation with a parent about a situation if needed,” said Campolieta.
The Baldwinsville AD says that the fields and courts should be treated as an extension of the classroom. With children and teenagers watching how all of these interactions play out, he’s urging parents to use every game as an opportunity to set a good example for their children.