The Oregon School Activities Association wants the bad behavior against sports officials to stop.
A recent op-ed by OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber and the CEO of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Dr. Karissa Niehoff called the yelling, harassment and disrespect of high school officials “unacceptable” and “embarrassing.”
“These things just can’t go on,” Weber told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday. “We need to make sure that we’re cleaning up any behavior that’s out there.”
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According to the op-ed, a survey from NFHS revealed that 55% of officials surveyed said verbal abuse from coaches, parents and fans was the No. 1 reason they quit.
84% of those surveyed said they felt officials are treated unfairly by spectators, and 46% have felt unsafe or feared for their safety due to spectator, coach, administrator or player behavior.
The op-ed was written to support a nationwide campaign to shine a light on the issue and improve the existing referee shortage.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to work on the past couple of years ourselves,” Weber said. “But this national effort really is something that we want to get behind. We think it can be a positive and hope it can improve the atmosphere at events really for everybody, but obviously in particular for our officials.”
Jim Gregory, the President of the Central Oregon Football Officials Association, said that kind of behavior locally has been minimal.
“I’ve officiated basketball in the past and I’m currently a baseball umpire as well,” he said. “You hear the same thing, they question the ball or a strike or the application of a rule, but there’s really been no derogatory epithets or anything thrown toward us personally.”
But when it does happen, Gregory said it’s their job to manage it.
“What we’ll do is just step in there and say ‘hey, let’s knock it off, we’re going back to our huddles, let’s collect our thoughts and cool down for minute,'” he said.
He said the larger threat to referee numbers locally has been older, more experienced referees retiring from the job.
But a referee shortage has been present, leading to shifts in schedules and gameplay across various high school sports, including volleyball.
The OSAA hopes the article will be a step toward a better attitude toward officials in the state. They are also joining a national social media campaign, #BenchBadBehavior, to raise awareness.
“I think for the vast majority of games we have pretty good behavior from spectators and they’re supportive and that’s really been what our focus has been,” Weber said. “Let’s focus on the positive piece and focus on supporting your team, not being negative towards the other team or negative towards officials. Let’s remember what interscholastic sports are about.”