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The Press Box for February 19

By Staff | Feb 19, 2020

Wanted – Youth Sports Referee: To oversee games involving emotionally charged athletes, parents, and coaches. To figure out what occurred amidst hundreds of instances involving fast moving athletes and high-speed balls. To oversee athletes. To be responsible for athlete safety, while, coaches, fans, and parents berate you for any perceived mistakes. Ability to control yourself when being falsely accused. All for very little compensation and often as a free volunteer.

Now does that sound familiar to you? There continues to be a shortage in referees, it’s hard to find someone willing to put up with nonsense. Referees often get overlooked in the world of sports writing, but from the actions of many youth coaches, parents, and fans, we can easily recognize how they’re reviewed and constantly treated.

A recent middle school basketball tournament brought out the worst in sportsmanship from a local coach and his followers. I heard about it, but didn’t really believe it until the referee involved came to the office and showed me some face book pictures and a video. Both depicted the coach’s despicable actions.

I am sure the referee wasn’t the best, in fact in his own words,”I was not very good.” He also told me he was highly intimidated and wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the game. He said the funny thing is, he wasn’t sure if it was his bad refereeing or the coaches bad coaching. I laughed on that one!

I talked to the young man for several minutes and gave him what I thought was some good advice. He seemed to take it well and told me this would be the last year for him. We wonder why we can’t get good referee’s.

I didn’t go to the tournament. I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t often attend middle school events, I did want to go to this one, but there were several high school games going on and there was no time.

It’s truly part of the job of our coach’s at all levels, to model behavior and proper values for the children they coach and are educating. Once the adult coach begins berating the referee, the players and fans soon follow.

As in all walks of life, but especially coaching, there is a need to better interact with others with greater compassion and humility. And, on the playing field, or the court strive to work together and include not just your competitors under this banner, but referees as well.

In a high school girls basketball game in the southern part of the state this past week several players were suspended for two games for leaving the bench after a after a fight broke out. Three people were charged. The game was a heated contest between Beckley Woodrow Wilson and Greenbrier East

Greenbrier East is coached by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. “I hate to say it any other way, but honest to God’s truth is the same thing happened over at Woodrow two different times out of the Woodrow players,” Justice said. “They’re a bunch of thugs. The whole team left the bench, the coach is in a fight, they walked off the floor, they called the game.

“The game was over when they walked off the floor – it’s just as simple as that. They don’t know how to behave and at the end of the day, you got what you got,” Justice was quoted as saying.

There is much more to the story than this, but you get the idea. One mistake by a disgruntled coach, parent or fan can lead to an incident which turns violent. Remarks like the ones above can scar people for the rest of their lives. I have been following the story from the beginning and the results of this incident are going to last for a long time.

I think there is a lot of fun to be had at school sporting events and often it has to do with referee’s and coaching styles, with fans and parents and many times even the cheering sections. But, things can quickly get out of control by the actions of a few people, putting many others in a bad situation.

We need to understand, it’s still just a game. Very few if any of these kids will make it to the next level and odds of becoming a professional athlete are slim to none. So, make it fun, and enjoyable for the kids. Stories like the ones above ruin it for everyone. Having a little fun with the referee is one thing, but humiliating them is something else. Be careful, what you say and do it will come back to you. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com