Referees in High School Sports – A Chain of Frustration


Erich Packer, Sports Editor

If you’ve ever played in or attended a high school sports game you’ve likely heard the irritating noise of angry parents yelling at the referee for the obvious call they just missed. Referees have gained a terrible reputation when it comes to their ability to call a game. This reputation carries all the way up to the highest level, where MLB umpires are having their jobs threatened by robots. Officials have to take a lot of abuse throughout their career and the effect of this is beginning to show. Everyone is frustrated when it comes to the job of officiating high school sports, but where does the problem really lie?

Every athlete has experienced the frustration of losing a game and feeling like it was all because of the referees. Every soccer player has seen a bad foul call that has led to a loss for the team. Basketball players constantly see many bad foul calls that lead to free throws which add up to a bad loss. Referees can make or break the fun of a game. A poorly officiated game takes all the fun out of a game and makes it simply frustrating. The problem is, there is no solution to this. There are very few available referees to officiate games.

The shortage of referees can be almost directly blamed at the misconduct of parents, players and coaches. Parents do not shy away from showing their discontent towards officials during their child’s games. Whether they show this from yelling at the ref that a foul was just committed or even booing the referee. Along with this, players will go up to officials and give them a mouth full. Even coaches will yell at the official from the bench telling them that they just missed a call or that the call they made was terrible. This creates the experience of officiating a game very unfavorable. Referees are quitting at an all-time rate.

But, it can be argued that it’s the referees’ own fault that they are getting the backlash that they receive. It is true that most high referees are not very good. Missed calls are common and they can certainly contribute to a team losing a game. In my opinion, it varies on whether you can blame a referee for their bad calls or not. Some calls are simply difficult to make. Maybe they didn’t have the right angle or something happens very quickly. But some things are the officials’ fault. Including showing bias towards a team, being lazy, not following the game and escalating situations.

Poor officiating has led to angry players, coaches and parents who do not shy away from letting the referee know their frustration. This has created the issue of referees taking a lot of abuse, which is making them quit their jobs. So who really is at fault? Angry players, coaches or parents? Or the referees themselves?