The pandemic of the officiparenting crisis...

As a photographer, I've noticed an alarming trend when it comes to the treatment of officials.

As such, I'm coining a new term...Officiparenting - the act of making calls from the sidelines and berating officials who are in charge of ensuring, to the best of their ability, fair and safe play.

In soccer, a play-on happens when a player has a good position and is likely to score instead of a free kick by stopping play. It’s generally a signal performed after some aggressive touching by opposing players. 

While this is supposed to encourage athletes to keep playing, it’s also a signal that, if used in more profound touching in the sport, begs the question at what point is player safety being compromised because play on is an easier call and one that potentially alleviates vocal parental displeasure?

In the world of adolescent and high school sports, the officiating landscape has changed drastically. There is a colossal shortage of officials in a variety of sporting events and the reason is very, very simple.

Parents. Parents are to blame.

You see, at one time I was one of those parents. Years ago, when my now 23-year-old son was 10, I got frustrated about a then illegal head-first slide while playing baseball. I’m ashamed to admit I was very vocal towards the umpire about that lack of a call. But then I witnessed the change in his behavior after I was frustrated. And from the day on I knew I needed to be better. 

So I got better. There are times I get frustrated. And I might quip a time or two if I am in the stands, but as a professional photographer and oftentimes now on the sidelines, that behavior is unacceptable. Believe me when I tell you, it happens. A LOT. So much so that about five years ago I started wearing headphones for everything I photograph so I don't have to listen to my parents.

Headphones became a necessity because while I may have changed how I react, sadly, that can’t be said about parental behavior in general. It’s gotten worse. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see some viral clip about parents behaving badly at their children’s sporting events. I've witnessed this behavior at events I've photographed.

Each year the umpire pool has gotten smaller, and less experienced because frankly, officials are tired of it. And I don't blame them.

The parent issue in turn has caused a lack of competent officiating issue, which again, is changing the narrative of safe play, both physically and mentally, in a variety of sports.

Play on is in a crisis not because there aren't enough qualified officials, but because parents and some athletes feel like it's okay to go after officials for a lack of call. I've noticed a disturbing trend when it comes to this officiparenting...athletes are becoming more vocal as are people who are part of some events.

On any given Friday night I guarantee you there will be one to a few ball helpers voicing their frustration if there is a call they don't like, but of course, they are feeding off of what they heard from the crowd, or, more likely, just exhibiting behavior they've learned from their parents at their events over the years. Now, I'm not saying there aren't coaches that don't have control, but some sporting events make it more difficult, and frankly hard to hear, but the problem is there. And it's not just exclusive to football. It's every sport. And it needs to be fixed.

This trend of opposition, which I believe is a stark difference compared to frustration, is happening with athletes as well, which again, is traditionally a learned behavior. I'll be the first to admit I have a redhead who, at times, can be sassy. We've talked often about advocating for yourself without being disrespectful. Question a call, get the reason behind it, and then get back to playing. There is NO EXCUSE for continued mistreatment of an official because you don't like the calls. Verbal abusing any official, in my opinion, should be a card/foul or ejection. More accountability HAS to be in place. YOU have to teach your athletes to be better.

Officials are supposed to be impartial and fair but even I'll admit that once a parent gets after them too often, or a player starts in, I SEE why it MAY appear as if they are now intentionally making it more difficult for that team/player. They get tired of being abused. I've seen officials verbally berated and/or abused by parents and I know you have too.

Parents, this starts with you. Stop with the bad behavior because you don't like a call. Stop allowing your kids to witness your bad behavior. Make sure your athletes understand that respect for the officials is paramount.

Bad calls happen. But so do a lot of good calls.

If you want fair officiating, it starts with you.

Do better, because at the rate officials are stepping away from sports, your athlete might not have a season in five years if this trend continues.

References: (suffice it to say there are too many articles to even share, but here are a few)