We all make mistakes

May 22, 2009
Referees make mistakes. They are blind, biased, and don’t know the rules of the games they officiate. Preferential treatment is given to star players and the home team will get most of the calls. Referees are the only adults that parents allow and encourage kids to disrespect. 

We’ve all heard the jeers, inappropriate comments, and personal insults yelled at referees during games.  Referees are people too.  They try to remember rules as best they can and apply them to game situations.  The only thing a referee has is his or her reputation.  Most are very protective of their reputations.  

Moreover, it’s just silly to be labeled a cheater over the outcome of a 7th grade boys’ basketball game.  Poor attitudes toward officials do not stop with youth sports. Professional athletes and coaches have had a long-standing adversarial relationship with referees and umpires. The NFL and NBA fine players and coaches who make disparaging remarks about officials. MLB still allows umpires to be cursed at and dirt kicked on them.

What if referees behaved like the rest of us?  In football, a coach may be upset that a referee didn’t make a pass interference call and the referee says, “Why should I call pass interference? Your receivers can’t catch anyway.” In baseball, a manager could be upset over a called third strike. 

The umpire says, “Can it!  This bum couldn’t hit the ball if I gave him five strikes.” There would be great outrage and understandably so. Officials should not behave that way. People who work with kids should not behave this way.  

Wait a minute! No one should behave this way. Regardless of what we see on sports reports or read in newspapers, games are decided by a variety of decisions and actions. Most of the time, the play on the field decides the outcome. This is how the idea of personal responsibility can be taught in sports.  

Success or failure is not decided by a third party who we can blame, but by ourselves. I’ll end with this story from my childhood. I was nine years old in 1985. The St. Louis Cardinals were playing in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. The series was tied 3-3 and game seven was to be played on a Sunday night – a school night. 

I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me stay up and watch the game. She agreed when I told her I would do extra chores for the next week if she let me watch the game. I witnessed the Kansas City Royals embarrass my Cardinals, 11-0. I didn’t get it. The Cardinals were the best team in the National League.  

They never looked this bad. Well, the Cardinals were still upset over a missed call which they thought cost them game six of the series. No one could refocus after the game six loss, so they gave up on game seven. While the game six loss was upsetting, they had another opportunity in game seven and did not take advantage.

They allowed the official to decide the last game and officials can’t win games. Kids need to be shown personal responsibility.  Bad calls will be made and bad plays designed.  You will run the wrong way and make a shot in your opponent’s basket, but keep playing.  

You will make mistakes during your race, but keep running. The race (whether it’s the 100 meters or life) is not given to the strong or the swift, but to the one who can endure to the end. Let’s teach our kids to stay in the race, no matter what. The Sportsmanship Blog will take a long Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be back on Tuesday. Until next time….

Be a Good Sport!

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