While watching a game from the stands, you will see missed or bad calls made by the referee or umpire. Sometimes the referee’s mistakes will seem to come in bunches or possibly at a crucial moment in a contest. But before you lose control and scream at the referee’s incompetence, keep in mind that most games and matches are rarely decided by poor calls. Almost always, the results are based on player performance.
Within each game, there are countless opportunities for your child’s team to exert its dominance over the other. Besides making the necessary physical plays, eliminating even a few of the many mental mistakes that occur in a game can often dictate who wins. Consider the number of errors made by your child and team over the course of the game, compared to the relatively few made by the game’s referees. Yes, referees can place their imprint on a game. Sometimes as a contest winds down, a single bad call makes a difference. But in the end, the game’s outcome is usually controlled and decided by the players performance (over the entire game)—not the referees.
One of the unfortunate aspects of youth sports is the behavior of some parents in the stands. As it relates to referees, certain parents will not only criticize the referees for actual mistakes made, but also for proper calls that go against their child or team. Sometimes parents do this out of misguided parental interest in their child’s success while other times they don’t understand the actual rules of the game. Even worse, some parents see referees as their personal whipping dog, an opportunity to let go of their day’s frustrations.
Almost everyone makes a critical comment here and there—sports are emotional for both the child and parent. But when a parent loudly and constantly berates a referee on every call that goes against his or her child, it’s time to step back and recognize the parent’s behavior for what it is—rude and unacceptable. This conduct sets a bad example for children and runs counter to the principles of every youth and scholastic program. Among the reasons why this behavior is harmful is that a child sees their parent assigning blame to the referee instead of where it typically belongs—with the player or team. In place of teaching the child accountability, the parent’s behavior is promoting a detrimental “victim” mentality.
If you find yourself headed down this path, either don’t attend your child’s games or do a better job of controlling your behavior. Try to appreciate and enjoy the game in its entirety—not just from a win/loss perspective or one that overemphasizes the natural interest that you have in seeing your child succeed. Focus more on how your child is playing compared to the last time and whether your child is playing up to his or her demonstrated potential.
When the inevitable bad calls occur, view them as just one more obstacle that your child must overcome and carefully watch how your child responds. Your goal is to help instill a champion’s heart in your child.
Support your child by behaving in a way that builds his or her character and remember that most games aren’t decided by the referee’s poor calls.