Nationwide there is an evershrinking pool of referees willing to officiate high school sports due to increasing verbal – and sometimes physical – abuse by spectators and coaches.

After witnessing a high school soccer match Monday night in Asheville, one can understand why referees numbers are dwindling.

Throughout the game, coaches and parents from both teams berated the officials for calls made or not made during the course of the match, ranging from whether or not the player was offsides, goal versus corner kick and whether or not fouls were or weren’t called. At the conclusion of the match, one parent even cussed out the center referee. This was over-the-line and uncalled for no matter how they thought the game was called.

At one point during the match, a goalkeeper from one of the teams was overheard apologizing to the assistant referee (AR) for abuse from the spectators.

The AR responded “You have nothing to apologize for. It’s not your fault.”

It’s little wonder, after hearing the verbal abuse the referees were subjected to for 100 minutes (the match went into overtime) that more referees aren’t retiring their whistles after one year versus two-to-three years. Who wants to be subjected to this lack of respect and criticism every time one steps onto the field to officiate a match? Most people wouldn’t.

We need to respect and appreciate the referees, for without them, there would be no high school games, whether it be in soccer or any other sport. What is important here is to remember the referees are officiating for the kids and the love of the sport, for they are surely not in it for the money nor insults and beratement heaped on them by those off the field.

Parents need to understand they are setting an example for the players. It may be a good example or a bad example, but a touchstone for their behavior nonetheless. What’s really sad is most of the comments shouted are done out of ignorance, because the parents think they know the rules, but, in fact, do not.

Here are a few suggestions to the spectators.

First, if you wouldn’t say it or do it in front of your mother, at church or on your job, don’t do it at the field. Remember, you are showing your child how to handle stress and conflict as an adult.

Second, take a referee course so you can understand the rules of the game. Even if you have no intention of stepping up and being an official, knowledge is a good thing to have. When you say things that are just wrong, you lose credibility

Next, realize that referees are human too and make mistakes, just like you and I do at our job.

Finally, if you truly think you can do a better job of refereeing, then step up, take the training, pass the test, pay the fee and put on the uniform.

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