LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Sports are meant to be fun, but some officials are arriving at their breaking point because of parents behaving badly.
“A lot of times the schools will walk you out with a security guard,” Long Island referee Brian Coyle said.
“Is it dangerous being a ref?” CBS2’s Steve Overmyer asked.
“It’s more the emotional and verbal abuse,” Coyle replied.
Across the Tri-state area, the current crop of refs are aging out and new refs are turning in their whistle.
According to the National Federation of High Schools, 80 percent of new refs quit after two years because of abusive behavior from the stands.
“Take this sport – women’s lacrosse. We’d love to get players from local schools to become officials… They’ve outright told us “no, we don’t wanna be screamed at,” Coyle explained.
Animosity towards refs is not uncommon, but state officials believe it’s ramping up.
“It ends up being a situation where one parent yells at an official and other parents see that as acceptable behavior,” Robert Zayas, the executive director of the NYSPHSAA.
In some places it leads to a shortage of refs and games cancelled; which means the actions of parents are threatening to alter the landscape of sports.
“We can’t just plug a game in next Tuesday if we don’t have officials to accommodate them,” Tom Combs, the head of Suffolk County high school sports said.
“Could we lose sports because we don’t have officials? Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Web Extra: New York State Public High School Athletic Association Addresses Referee Shortage
Right now, Long Island is operating with about half the officials needed.
Aggressive parents might feel they’re supporting their children, but it’s the exact opposite.
“One of the best stories I had – I was doing a JV girls basketball game and the girl travelled and I called a travel. Her mother goes ‘that’s a horrible call! You stink!’ and the girl says ‘ma, shut up! I traveled.’”
“Ultimately the price is being paid by the children because it’s their parents embarrassing them in front of their friends,” Robert Zayas said.
“Maybe we could do it by kids actually asking parents ‘can you please just let me play this game without questioning every single call?’”
Parents can yell, but it won’t make a ref change their call.
For more on how to apply to be a school referee, click here