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Palm Coast Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 7 months ago

Who's to blame: The refs or parents?

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Are the refs at fault for making bad calls that could affect the outcome of a game, or are the parents at fault for verbally abusing refs?
by: Ray Boone Sports Editor

Every other night, I stand along the sidelines at high school sporting events. And in my six months as the sports writer for the Observer, I’ve witnessed some interesting scenarios.

I’ve seen game-winners, huge comebacks and huge losses. But one of the most interesting things I have observed is the dynamic between referees and parents.

On Jan. 26, I covered the Flagler Palm Coast girls soccer team’s district final against University. And with every “bad” call by the officials, I would hear angry cries from the fans.

“You suck!” one fan shouted to a referee when a Bulldog was whistled for a foul. “You’re blind!” exclaimed another. “You’re the worst!”

It went on and on (the Bulldogs won 3-0).

These words were actually pretty tame compared to what I come across on occasion. One time, during a boys soccer match between FPC and Mainland, the officials threatened to remove a spectator because of what he was yelling at them.

Who is to blame here? The refs or the parents?

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials, about 40% of officials believe parents cause the most problems with sportsmanship during games. And of the 17,487 refs who responded to the survey, 86.98% of them reported suffering verbal abuse in their officiating roles. Coincidentally, 83.94% of fans said they have never heckled an official.

So, are the refs at fault for making bad calls that could affect the outcome of a game, or are the parents at fault for verbally abusing refs?

On one hand, I get what it’s like to be a passionate fan of a team, and I can only imagine what it’s like to watch your kid play a sport. You care about the outcome. You want to see your child’s team do well, and sometimes, maybe a ref doing a poor job can get in the way of that.

But on the other hand, you have officials who are trying to do their best. Yes, they’re fallible, but they don’t have instant replay, and most of them officiate as a side job. (Last year, over 90% of refs made less than $10,000 from officiating, according to the survey.)

The state needs to find a way to hold officials accountable for their performance. And maybe a parent should be ejected every now and then so that they get the message.

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