By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – High School sports starts the week of Aug. 14, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the sidelines. Something I’m not looking forward to is having to hear all of the cussing, screaming, and threats coming from the “fans” directed at the sports officials.
This behavior has gotten so pervasive in prep sports that most major high school athletic associations have begun addressing it – they have to because they’re losing officials.
It is so prevalent that the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is hosting the NFHS Behavior in Sports Summit: Understanding Your Influence on Aug. 14-16 in Indianapolis.
Dr. Karissa Niehoof, NFHS chief executive officer, said in a statement on Aug. 8, “Recent surveys indicated that despite the efforts of many individuals, groups, and organizations, the behavior at events and abuse of officials is continuing across the country. We are tired of talking about the problems. It is time to start formulating solutions to the behavior issues at high school – and middle school – sporting events nationwide.”
According to a 2022 officiating study released by the NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association), “Poor sportsmanship is the number one reason officials will leave the officiating ranks. 63 percent of those (officials) surveyed indicated that bad behaviors by fans, coaches, and players make officiating no longer rewarding. 66 percent of all surveyed believe that spectator behavior is worse than it has ever been.”
Even more shocking than that is the revelation in the study stating “more than half of current NCHSAA officials have considered quitting in the last two years”.
Well, as I think about the statement, it shouldn’t shock me at all. Officials are people – they are, I checked. So, officials are people, and most people don’t like being screamed at while they’re working.
Que Tucker, NCHSAA commissioner, said in a statement in October following release of the report, “We hear our officials loudly and clearly. Bad behavior, particularly by fans, at high school contests must stop. The data from this survey of officials is alarming as it shows how close we are to a tremendous problem in finding qualified officials for contests at our schools.”
That’s what I’m afraid will happen. I’d hate to see a day when student-athletes cannot play their sport because of a lack of officials. And, it seems like we’re heading towards that now.
I’m a sports fan, a huge sports fan. And, I get it. I really do. Sometimes, officials make just absolutely terrible calls. I see it each and every single game I cover. But, I get to see the game through a telephoto lens and see the game much closer than even the official on the field. Sports move fast, and it’s hard to make a split-second decision. They get calls right, and they get them wrong. It’s up to us, as fans, to accept their calls and their foibles.
Even when it is hard to do so, we have to accept their calls. We have to do this for the student-athletes.
If an official continually makes bad calls or if a school feels they continually target their students, then the school should document it and file a formal complaint. It’s the only way to move forward and have officials continue to officiate games.
There’s no perfect officiating, but fans have to calm down. Cheer for, not against.
Let’s have a great 2023-24 sports season. See you on the sidelines.