You may not realize it, but being an official is a tough job! An official’s job starts well before the first pitch is thrown. For weeks, months and in many cases years leading up to your game, your official has studied the rules and passed exams reflecting that knowledge. They have arrived early to make sure the field is safe and in good condition. They have visited with both sides, checking to make sure players have the proper gear and equipment to keep them safe, even asking for things like jewelry to be removed to protect athletes. They confirmed that both teams have enough players and that the roster is in order, avoiding forfeitures.
And once they call that first "Play Ball", they ensure that the game is played safely and by the rules. They are actively watching not just the play-at-hand, but elsewhere throughout the contest to ensure that activity away from the main focus of action is also legal. And they move quickly, watching while also not getting in the way of the game itself. They keep track of balls, strikes, outs and scores. And when the contest ends, they are responsible for reporting what happened – final results, protests, rule violations and in some cases, injuries (allowing organizers to follow-up and ensure that injured players are treated.)
Without officials, the game simply couldn’t happen! It wouldn’t start, it wouldn’t be fair, athletes wouldn’t be protected, and no one would validate the outcome. We need officials!
Sadly, we’re losing officials in youth sports because they aren’t treated with good sportsmanship by athletes, coaches and sometimes worst of all by fans in the stands.
What does it mean to practice good sportsmanship when it comes to officials?
- It means introducing yourself to officials at the beginning of the game and thanking them for being there. That goes for coaches, athletes and parents alike.
- It means thanking officials at the end of the contest and even congratulating them on calling a good game or managing a tough situation well.
- It means having empathy for the challenge of making calls in a split second, especially as they are watching so many different things at once.
- It’s recognizing that officials are human and make mistakes – just like we do. And that an official never sets out to make a bad call or make a mistake.
- It means following proper protocols to respectfully question calls and to respect the officials’ answers, regardless of whether the outcome is in your favor.
Teach your athletes that officials are people too and deserve the same respect as your teammates and opponents. Often times the officials are volunteers and not getting paid for their time. They are almost always in the best position of anyone involved in the game to see a foul (even if you think your view is better from the stands!). They aren’t perfect. But, again, without officials, the game just wouldn’t be played.
So next time you head out to your game, take a moment to thank an official!