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Referees Face a Tough Road

Parents and spectators should realize that new officials seen on the fields are in training. Whether they are working their first game or have been around for a few seasons, these officials still have a lot to learn when it comes to making split second decisions dealing with the activities of players on the field and the different personalities of coaches and spectators along the sidelines.

Most people will understand that players need, even before their first match, much repeated coaching, lots of practice, positive feedback and a nurturing environment in order to stay interested in the activity, improve and grow.

Where, but during actual games, do new officials have the opportunity to practice what they were taught in the classroom and learn to deal with real game experiences?

Unfortunately, new officials are seldom provided those valuable learning opportunities until they are assigned to an actual game. Beyond the initial basic instruction provided in a classroom situation, the new officials must rely mostly on their on-the-job experiences and any feedback they receive from fellow officials and assessors in order to mature and grow.

Players are generally forgiven for making mistakes, even the most costly ones, yet officials are often openly and ruthlessly belittled, degraded and embarrassed for even the most insignificant decision be it for a call or a non call made.

Should those same critics not be treating the referees who make mistakes in the same way as they treat the players? Players have scheduled practices lead by coaches and yet mistakes are made on game days. Referees like players will make mistakes which, like the players’ mistakes, should be looked at as a learning experience and a fact of life.

In the early years of their avocation, many officials have been known to stop refereeing before being given a chance to mature and learn. The repeated criticism, complaints, put downs, negative comments and in some cases threats are the leading causes of an official’s decision to quit.

The next time you are at a game, think of the numerous duties and responsibilities of the referees and before being too quick to criticize, question or embarrass, what would you say if it was your player or your child in that position?