Thursday, 23 May 2024

Teaching Respect for Officials

Most people recognize that being an official is a difficult job. However, it is unfortunate that many volleyball parents, coaches, and athletes make this job even harder by shouting ridicule and criticism at officials. Teaching respect for officials is not about blind obedience, but rather about self-advocacy, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and overcoming adversity.

The Importance of Respect

It is no coincidence that as society’s win-at-all-costs attitude has increased, youth sports organizations are facing a severe shortage of officials. Instances of violence against officials, which were once extremely rare, are now occurring more frequently. This includes tragic incidents such as a youth soccer referee in Utah being punched to death in 2013 and two high school football players in Texas blindsiding a referee during a game. Even at the youth sports level, there are instances of players, coaches, and parents verbally abusing officials. It is crucial to increase awareness about how officials should be treated.

Lessons for Referee Respect

Respecting officials is an important value that needs to be taught to athletes, parents, and coaches. However, there is rarely a direct conversation about the expectations for respecting officials. Here are some key lessons to remember:

Officials Have More Training Than Players or Spectators

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No matter how experienced or knowledgeable an athlete or parent is, it’s crucial to remember that officials have specific training in the rules of the game, how to observe the game, and how to make difficult calls. They are often in a better position to see the play compared to parents on the sidelines or in the stands. If you truly believe you can do a better job, leagues are always hiring.

More Focus on the Officials Means Less Focus on the Game

While there are many aspects of sports that are unpredictable and out of a player’s control, there are some things they can control. Players, spectators, and coaches cannot control officiating, but if they become overly focused on how the officials are calling the game, they are likely less focused on playing to the best of their abilities. Coaches should advocate for their team, but they should focus more on instructing and guiding players than haranguing referees. Parents in the stands should spend their time focused on watching and encouraging their young athletes to do their best with the one thing they can control: their own performance.

Officials Should be Treated Like Coaches

One way coaches can model respect for officials is by personally greeting them before the game, just as they would greet the coach of the opposing team. Encouraging team captains to introduce themselves to the officials at the pre-game meeting or coin flip also helps humanize officials in the eyes of young players.

Yelling at Officials Models Poor Communication Skills

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Yelling at officials sends the wrong message to young athletes. It communicates that mistakes are not acceptable, that there is no need to take accountability for one’s own performance, that it’s acceptable to disrespect an authority figure whenever there is disagreement, and that yelling is an acceptable behavior. It is important for parents and coaches to think about what yelling at officials teaches young athletes.

Try It Before You Criticize

Having athletes and parents try officiating during scrimmages at practices is a great way to illustrate the difficulties referees face. This exercise helps parents and athletes develop empathy towards referees by experiencing the challenges firsthand.

Remember, It’s Just a Game

No missed call during a volleyball match is going to make or break an athlete’s career. Youth sports should be about learning and falling in love with sports, not heaping pressure on athletes, coaches, and officials. If a player, coach, or parent makes a mistake and is disrespectful to an official during the game, it is important to resolve the conflict afterwards through a face-to-face conversation with the official. This demonstrates to young athletes the importance of taking responsibility for their actions and making amends with others.


Q: How can I teach my child to respect officials?
A: One of the best ways to teach respect for officials is by setting a positive example. Encourage your child to greet officials before the game and emphasize the importance of listening to their calls. Remind them that officials have a tough job and deserve respect.

Q: What can coaches do to promote respect for officials?
A: Coaches can play a crucial role in promoting respect for officials. They should model respect by greeting officials before the game and focusing on instructing and guiding players rather than constantly arguing with referees. Coaches can also use scrimmages during practice to help athletes understand the challenges officials face.

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Teaching respect for officials is essential in fostering a positive and sportsmanlike environment in youth sports. By recognizing the training officials undergo, focusing on the game rather than officiating, treating officials with respect, and avoiding negative behaviors such as yelling, we can create a culture of respect and appreciation for officials. Remember, youth sports are about learning, having fun, and building valuable life skills. Let’s make sure we are setting the right example for our young athletes. For more information on fostering a positive sporting culture, visit Alpinetgheep.