Arizona Republic examines growing problem of abuse of HS sports officials

It’s happening more and more often on playgrounds and high school courts in Arizona — and across the country.

The call of an official angers the crowd. Tempers flare. Some profanity is thrown around, then the scene deteriorates into something worse.

Abuse of officials by fans, coaches and players is a growing problem in high school sports. There were 26% more ejections at Arizona Interscholastic Association games last year than the previous season, or nearly 1,350. The problem is chasing the officials – without whom he cannot competition – right out of the game.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also led to a decrease in the number of referees, referees and officials, 50,000 people have interrupted their services as high school officials since the 2018-19 season. , according to a national survey of high school athletes. associations.

“And they don’t come back,” says Brian Gessner, AIA’s manager.

This fall, a nationwide consortium of coaches, administrators, law enforcement, security and the media will look for ways to address the issue. Most people who umpire youth and high school sports do so for the love of the game. They certainly don’t do it to get rich – most games will fetch an official between $65 and $85, depending on the sport, for several working hours.

“We have been running a national campaign for four years to recruit and retain officials,” said Karissa Niehoff, CEO of the National Federation of High Schools. “We still hear horrific examples of officials being assaulted. The number of states that actually have state legislation on the table or passed that talks about having protected public officials from assault, and knowing that our states and state governments have to do that, c is extremely discouraging.

Some of the solutions being explored include giving more responsibility to school administrations to control crowd behavior, rather than leaving it to game officials; strengthen security measures to help protect officials; improve sportsmanship by increasing penalties – longer suspensions, stiffer fines – for unruly actions and ejections.

“Unless officials can work in safe conditions, where they are treated with respect, we will lose them and the subsequent impact on interscholastic sports will be devastating,” said Phoenix Xavier Prep athletic director Sister Lynn Winsor. ,

Echoes Lakeside Blue Ridge football coach Jeremy Hathcock: “Officials are underappreciated and if we don’t start treating them well by establishing dialogue during games, then one day we may wake up and realize that we we can no longer compete.”

Click here to read Republic reporter Richard Obert’s full story on the impact of this issue on high school sports in Arizona, a special report for subscribers. Not a subscriber ? Click here to find out how to join us.

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