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Why and How Parents Can Support Referees in Youth Sport

Have you ever wanted to yell at a referee during your young athlete’s big game? Maybe you thought the ref made a bad call or has been favoring the other team for the whole game. But as a parent, how you interact with the referee can make a big impact on your athlete.

Dr. Amanda Stanec, who specializes in physical education and youth development through sport, say that one thing she’s noticed, as a parent of three young athletes herself, is that parents need to be more supportive of referees—and the consequences for not supporting the refs can be much worse than you realize.

A recent Washington Post article highlights a disturbing trend: Referees are becoming harder and harder to hire, thanks to the constant stream of abuse that is regularly leveled on them by angry parents. No referees equal no games, unless that behavior changes.

But beyond that, says Stanec, treating referees poorly and leveling abuse at them when you believe they’ve made an incorrect call is sending a bad message to your kids. “How we conduct ourselves really matters, and how we’re role modeling behavior to children really matters,” she says.

In addition to treating people with kindness, parents are also in a position to role model how a child can deal with frustration and anger in their life. “The role modeling of self-regulation is absolutely essential,” says Stanec. “Especially since the last two years because, due to COVID, kids have lost many opportunities to practice self-regulation in the sporting arena. So, it’s really necessary that we model that excellent behavior. Teaching kids to thank the officials after a game is a great start.”

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Sportsmanship Parent TrueSport