A couple weeks back I was coaching in an AAU tournament and shortly after our game, the official refereeing our game collapsed. When he collapsed, all the courts in the gym stopped. Kids, parents, and coaches who had been competing just seconds before all watched in deep concern as the official was being attended to by gym supervisors. Ambulances were called, the AED was used. It was a very humbling moment- one in which we were all hoping and praying for a fellow human. The paramedics arrived to the gym and took him to the hospital where thankfully, he would be okay.
The night before, for our 9:00 PM game, the same official was refereeing our game. The next day, the day in which he collapsed, he was doing our 5:30 PM game; he’d been doing games all morning and afternoon for the second day straight. I wouldn’t call him the best official we’ve ever had, but knowing how many games in a row he’d done for this tournament, he was doing a fine job. I see these exact circumstances at almost every tournament I go to- a referee doing twelve straight games two days in a row. It never fails that in probably 9 out of the 12 games parents and coaches are razzing them the whole game and in some cases, using completely disrespectful names and words. Especially at younger ages. I see parents coming onto courts in the middle of the game and making threats to officials because their 5th grade kid got fouled and it wasn’t called. After every call that’s made, 75% of the teams’ parents are screaming, kicking the bleachers, or standing up with their arms out in disbelief. I could go on and on here about keeping a little perspective, but I’ll stay to the point.
Not every referee is good and not every referee gives their best effort, but lets keep in mind that in many cases, they are working under circumstances given by tournament directors that are absolutely ridiculous. No matter how good of an official you are, if you do 20+ games in a weekend with people screaming at & harassing you the entire time, your job would suffer. Like us, these officials are human too. Which brings me back around to the official collapsing and the aftermath that surrounded it. Everyone hoped for the best for the man when he collapsed. You could feel everyone in the gym pulling for him & the respect being shown. Why does it take a moment like this for people to acknowledge and respect an official? Just because the guy is wearing a striped shirt and you don’t agree with his judgement doesn’t mean that he, like you and I, can’t fall victim to human moments.
Again, I’m not giving a free pass and saying that officials don’t have to try and do a good job but in almost 90% of all cases (and I have seen a ton of games) they are working with what they know. They are trying. I am asking for all of us to keep some perspective and try to show some respect, decency, and to maybe try thanking an official after a a game- regardless of if you thought they did a good job or not, it’s a thankless, difficult job. A little appreciation could go along way for them- not just as officials, but as people.