It is incredibly easy to get sucked into the hyper-competitive world of youth sports and completely lose perspective. I, too, have been a victim of losing perspective and, after the fact, was embarrassed by my conduct. It happened the fall of 2017 at a junior varsity football game in Butte, Montana. On that fall afternoon, I transformed from my somewhat mild-mannered self and into an unrecognizable monster.
My son Andrew plays defensive back, a position where he is responsible for defending a receiver when the ball is thrown. Getting an interception is a big deal for defensive backs. Drew found himself in man to man coverage as the Butte quarterback lofted a pass downfield. Drew reached up and came down with the pass and his team-mates went nuts! Unfortunately, the receiver from Butte was also able to get a hand on the pass as Drew came down. The referees called “simultaneous possession” and awarded the ball to Butte inside the Bozeman 10 yard line. I could not believe my eyes. Surely the legendary Butte fix was in.
Not more than ten minutes after Drew’s first interception, it happened again. Drew came down with another pass and the officiating crew called “simultaneous possession” as the Butte receiver tackled Drew from behind. I had what can only be considered an out of body experience calling the Butte officiating crew every name I could think of. Much to my embarrassment, I had become “that parent.” The parent who makes everyone else duck under their stadium seats. This was absolutely, positively not my finest hour.
On the ride home from Butte, I realized that I was out of line and decided to do something about it. I decided that I had no business yelling at an officiating crew that way unless I, too, was willing to officiate myself. After a twenty year break from officiating, I decided it was time to get back into the black and white stripes.
When I was in college, I used officiating as a means of paying for my living expenses. I believe that we were paid around $20 for a sub-varsity game and around $35 for varsity games. Games were usually in the evening on weekends and I was able to referee quite a few games high school games and actually got pretty good at it. I had a varsity schedule in my early 20s and was not much older than the players I was officiating. Refereeing was a lot of fun. I had no idea how much things had changed in 20 years.
My first games back were at middle schools in Bozeman. Although I handled quite a few high school games, my experience after handling a number of 7th and 8th grade basketball, left me with this question: What on earth has happened to middle school parents in the past 20 years? I do not know if it is the increased pressure from travel teams or the real possibility that their kid will be cut but what used to be fun junior high games turned really ugly. What was different from the criticism I saw 20 years ago was that today’s middle school parents seem to have a genuine disrespect for authority.
I cannot be too critical as I, too, have had my embarrassing moment. However, I encourage parents to keep this in mind: When you yell at referees and coaches, you are telling your community that your family does not respect authority.