Iowa Could Be at Risk of Losing High School Sports [OPINION]
KCRG has reported that the Iowa High School Athletic Association says "the way fans are acting in the stands during high school events has gotten so bad, it's impacting their efforts to recruit officials."
In high school, I used to referee elementary kids' basketball in the winters, and in the summers I would switch over to being an umpire for elementary/high school girls' rec league softball. The money was pretty good for a high school student with nothing to do and I just loved sports.
Having any involvement in the game was a lot of fun and I really had a blast getting to know and watching a lot of younger players grow up and become really good players. I even got to ump some games for girls I was in school with. It was 99% of the time enjoyable and I had a ton of fun.
There's always that 1% of parents, coaches, and fans who want to scream at officials and ruin the entire game for everyone. If you're one of these parents/coaches, it might be time to look yourself in the mirror and start just staying at home if you can't shut it.
I've umpired/refereed well over 100 games in various sports, in my years as a rec league sports official, and only 1 time did I ever have to eject someone from a ballgame. The coach's team was down 22-3 in the 3rd inning of a game and was screaming that I knew players on the other team and favorited them. It had nothing to do with her team's 30 errors in the field during the first 3 innings. It had to be my poor officiating right?
I got along with almost everyone because I hustled. If there was a play at second base I would sprint to the base to try and get in position to make the best call I could. 99% of the coaches and parents I would talk to after the game would always thank me for hustling and showing that I cared. It mattered to me that I got the call right and they truly appreciated that I tried my best. Did I get every call right? (Yeah... just ask me) Of course I didn't get every call right, but I was at least in a good position to make the best call I could.
Even with having an incredible experience being an official, you never remember the amazing games. There were games that came down to the last inning with a team down by 2 and runners on base or a last-second game-winning shot, you only remember the coach who wouldn't stop telling you how blind you were for 2 and half hours or the parents who told you they were going to follow you to your car after the game.
I have to tell 1% of the coaches and parents who scream at officials in high school sports, that little Timmy or little Sarah isn't playing in the pros right now. He/She realistically is not even close to being at that level. If he/she is, that's amazing and congratulations to them for their hard work. Scream at the refs all you want when he/she is a professional athlete, those officials get paid plenty of money to get yelled at. Once again, most high school kids want to play because they just love the game.
I know it's hard to believe and a tough concept to understand but these are just high school students. Some of them don't even have their driver's licenses yet. Some can't vote or even get into an R-rated movie. When little Timmy or little Sarah get home, they probably have a science project to work on or a history test to study for. All you do when you scream at officials is embarrass the crap out of your kids or players.
Can you disagree with an official's call? Absolutely. Do you need to scream, threaten or harass that official for the next few hours? God no. Let me give you a little hint on how to get an official on your side... Be kind but fair with them. Make your point and move on. Never in the history of life has a high school official been harassed or screamed at and decided to change a call. You're literally hurting your team when you treat the officials like garbage.
Whether you believe this or not, I'm letting you know that high school sports officials couldn't care less who wins or loses the game. They just want to do the job the best they can and try to be as out of sight as possible. When the game is over they just want to get home and relax.
If this group of parents, coaches, and fans don't learn to start treating officials with some type of respect, these high school student-athletes won't be able to play sports at all because no one will want to officiate the games. Do you think your high school student-athlete would rather be able to play sports or have you scream at a ref because you think you're right and the official is wrong, then you have a game or worse a season canceled because no one will officiate the games? We both know what the high school student-athlete would say.
As mentioned before 99% of parents/coaches get this and understand everything I'm trying to say. Those of you who do, keep on doing the right thing. You're the reason officials keep coming back and want to be a part of the games.
Realistically will high school sports really go away in Iowa? No. They're way too important to schools and help make schools a lot of money. I could see a possible scenario where they just don't allow parents or fans into the games. Pretty tough for fans or parents to yell at officials if there aren't any in the crowd, to begin with.
Don't believe me? The IHSAA is already having trouble filling jobs for the summer baseball season. If you need a summer side hustle, this might be a great job for you.
Parents/Coaches, put your dang pride away when it comes to the officials. It's high school athletics for crying out loud. If you don't, your student-athletes might just become... well, just students.