In face of abuse by parents, refs give up

Given the grief that parents at youth games give officials on behalf of their little charges, why would anyone want to be a referee or umpire anymore?

In Wisconsin, as elsewhere, they don’t.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is telling parents to “cool it,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says.

“We have a shortage of licensed high school officials in Wisconsin. Not only are experienced officials retiring, but younger officials are quitting. Why? Because of parental abuse,” WIAA director of communications Todd Clark says.

As a result, games are being postponed, rescheduled, or canceled.

“The refs that we see are the ones I’ve been seeing for 20 years now,” Cudahy girls basketball head coach Bob Maronde said. “Some of them, they want to sort of phase out into retirement, but they have coaches and ADs basically saying they need them to stick around.”

The officials acknowledge it’s not just the abuse by parents that’s at play here; it’s also the fact younger people have their own kids and less time to be pitching in.

The WIAA has circulated an op-ed calling on parents to relax and urging them to volunteer.

There are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them. If there are no officials, there are no games.

The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in some areas that athletic events are being postponed or canceled — especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels.

Research confirms that participation in high school sports and activities instills a sense of pride in school and community, teaches lifelong lessons like the value of teamwork and self-discipline and facilitates the physical and emotional development of those who participate.

So, if the games go away because there aren’t enough men and women to officiate them, the loss will be infinitely greater than just an “L” on the scoreboard. It will be putting a dent in your community’s future.