NFHS Voice: Punish Bad Fan Behavior
October 2, 2019
By Karissa Niehoff
NFHS Executive Director
About four weeks ago, we distributed an op-ed suggesting that inappropriate behavior by parents and other adult fans at high school sporting events was causing many officials to quit before they even reached two years on the job.
Although we received mostly positive support from this article, some people thought we went too far in telling parents to “act your age” and “stay in your own lane.” On the contrary, perhaps we should have been more direct.
Last week, one of our member state associations shared a resignation letter it had received from a 20-year veteran soccer official who had taken all the abuse he could handle. A portion of that letter follows:
“Soccer parents: you are absolutely 100% the reason we have a critical refereeing shortage and games are being cancelled left and right. And you are at least a part of the reason I’m done here. The most entitled among you are the ones that scream the loudest. And every time you do this, you tell your son or daughter the following:
‘I do not believe in you, I do not believe in your team, I do not believe in your collective ability to overcome your own adversity and you absolutely will not win and cannot do this without me tilting the table in your favor.’
“On behalf of myself and so many other referees – and I say this with every ounce of my heart and soul – shut up about the referees, and let your kids rise or fall as a team, as a FAMILY. Because the vast majority of you truly have no idea what you’re talking about, and even if you have a legitimate gripe about one play or one decision, you’re not fixing anything.”
And if that wasn’t enough, last week the Eastern Panhandle Youth Football League in West Virginia released the following statement:
“Unfortunately, it has come to the point that because of the abuse, negativity and utter disrespect shown to our officials from parents, coaches and most recently from our players, the Eastern Panhandle Officials Association president stated today that the association will no longer schedule officials for our league games at any field. This means effective immediately all remaining games are cancelled.”
This statement is from a youth league, which means the coaches are likely also parents of players, and the players are sons and daughters who are emulating their parents’ behavior.
So, no, our previous message was not too direct or emphatic. The kind of boorish parental behavior that compels a 20-year soccer official to quit cannot be allowed to continue. While we would hope that parents and other fans would embrace the concepts of education-based athletics by respecting the efforts of those men and women who officiate high school sports, that unfortunately is not occurring in some cases.
As a result, schools must adopt and enforce a strict, fan behavior policy. In soccer, a player receives a “yellow card” as a first warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. If the action occurs again, the player is hit with a “red card” and is ejected from the contest. Some schools have implemented a similar penalty structure for parents and other fans – not just at soccer games but all high school events. If the inappropriate behavior and verbal abuse of officials continues after one warning, the person is removed from the venue. There must be consequences for these offenders before we lose any more officials.
Most of the 7.9 million participants in high school sports are on the fields and courts every day to have fun and compete as a team with their classmates, and the 300,000-plus officials assist in that process. Now, if parents would let the players play and the officials officiate!
Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is in her second year as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS, which celebrated its 100th year of service during the 2018-19 school year. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.
This Week in High School Sports: 3/21/23
By Jon Ross
MHSAA Director of Broadcast Properties
March 21, 2023
This final edition for the 2022-23 school year reviews all four MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals and highlights some of the top performances from Boys Basketball Regional play.
The 5-minute program each week includes feature stories from MHSAA.com or network affiliates, along with "Be the Referee," a 60-second look at the fine art of officiating.
"This Week in High School Sports" is powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury.
Listen to this week's show by Clicking Here.
March 15: Ice Hockey Finals review, Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals highlights - Listen
March 8: Individual Wrestling Finals review, Competitive Cheer Finals highlights - Listen
March 1: Midland heroes, Team Wrestling Finals review - Listen
Feb. 22: Basketball Districts begin, Finals cap Upper Peninsula swimming & diving season - Listen
Feb. 15: Hockey tournament changes, MHSAA social media - Listen
Feb. 8: Winter Postseason Starts, Scholar-Athlete Award - Listen
Feb. 1: Kent City coach Jill Evers, "Officials Appreciation Week" - Listen
Jan. 25: Historic hoops wins, Michigan's national ranking in sports participation - Listen
Jan. 18: Brad Bush joins MHSAA, Al DeMott sets coaching record - Listen
Jan. 4: Winter Championships, Officials Recruitment - Listen
Nov. 23: 8-Player Football Finals, Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals, Volleyball Finals - Listen
Nov. 18: Concussion Myths, Navea Gauthier's record-setting Shelby volleyball season - Listen
Nov. 11: Lower Peninsula Cross Country, Boys Soccer Finals review - Listen
Nov. 2: Football Playoffs Week 1 notables, Fall 2022 championships and broadcasts - Listen
Oct. 26: Football Playoffs pairings selection, Upper Peninsula Cross Country Finals - Listen
Oct. 19: Sunday Selection Show, Lower Peninsula Girls Golf & Boys Tennis Finals - Listen
Oct. 12: 25th Women In Sports Leadership Conference highlights - Listen
Oct. 5: Upper Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals champions, Rockford's Anna Tracey - Listen
Sept. 28: MHSAA Sportsmanship Summits return, Owosso's Macy Irelan - Listen
Sept. 21: MHSAA/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Awards, Marquette's Maddy Stern - Listen
Sept. 14: MHSAA record books, Detroit Renaissance's Kaila Jackson - Listen
Sept. 7: Sports Participation rebounding, Paw Paw's Paige Miller - Listen
Aug. 31: Michigan Power Ratings and soccer seeding, Fenton's Gracie Olsen - Listen
Aug. 24: Redesigned MHSAA.com, key dates and how to watch football in 2022 - Listen