It’s the start of youth football season, so like the leaves turning colors in Fall and the grasses turning green in the Spring, we get to see the first display of outrageously unsportsmanlike conduct from a youth football coach and fans. This atrocity occurred in Sarasota, Florida : http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/local/sun_coast/fighting-erupts-at-youth-football-game-08312011?CMP=201109_emailshare
This one was especially brutal with the coach and fans physically attacking a referee. This one was rare in that a player even got involved and tackled the referee. It looked like something out of a British or third world country soccer match, the only thing missing was the tear gas, barbed wire and police with batons in hand.
Coaches, it is our responsibility to control the crowd, that means leading by example, staying off the field during problem plays, giving the referees respect and keeping your parents and fans in line. Once they see you getting after the referees, they feel it is acceptable for them to get after the referees. It doesn’t take long for a mob mentality to develop and spill onto the field.
If you haven’t had a mandatory parent meeting with the players in tow to talk about how you view officiating, you need to do one right now. Explain that everyone makes mistakes and that poor calls and no calls are inevitable, they are PART OF THE GAME, that every team must overcome. Very rarely does one call decide a youth football game, the difference between teams that win and lose is fundamentals and execution, not officiating. Poor officiating is the mantra of the weak coach who always has excuses for every loss, he loves to put blame on others.
What a great life lesson you teach your kids when you get them to concentrate on what they can control and not worry about things they can’t control, like officiating. What a great life lesson you teach the boys when you show deference for authority and grace when dealing with referees. Or do you think the kids are better served by losing your cool and causing a big scene? What will the kids remember better 20 years from now, the score of that game, or your behavior? What memory do you want them to have of you 20-30 years from now? What life lessons do you want them to take from their football experience with you?
Better yet, take the time to ref a game and see if you have the same attitude towards referees after that experience. Most referees do a good job and care about what they do. It’s a lot harder than it looks and in the end, most of the guys doing it do so because they like kids and love the game.
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