In college, one of the hardest things for most students is finding a way to make money. With all the homework and extracurriculars students have to do, finding time to make money is oftentimes at the bottom of the list. One way to make some extra change that doesn’t require a ton of time is to referee high school sporting events in the area. One UF student refs high school basketball games on the weekends and he thinks it helps him in a multitude of ways.
“I initially started it as a way to make money in college and this is my 5th season as an official,” said UF Grad Student, Mac Williams. “I’ve stayed involved because I love the game, it keeps me in shape, and I get to work with and meet some pretty awesome people.”
But with all of the good that being a referee has done for Williams, it has its downsides. One of the many stresses of being a referee is the berating and harassment they receive from parents. The amount of harassment of referees has been increasing in occurrences over the last decade, Ohio is no different. Much like all referees, Williams has encountered harassment from parents and it greatly discourages him from staying a referee.
“At least once every game something is said or gestured that is completely uncalled for and unacceptable,” said Williams. “The first time it happened I felt like I wanted to throw the whistle at them and walk to my car. I’ve thought about it, but the good people far outweigh the delusional ones.”
Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Executive Director, Jerry Snodgrass, is very fearful that there will be a time when Ohio will not have enough referees to cover all games.
“The average age for referees is 53,” said Snodgrass. “Along with the harassment, the pay isn’t all that great, you have to travel as well… the average being 53 may lead us to some trouble down the road.”
While Snodgrass does not think parents or spectators will ever stop harassing referees if they have made a questionable call, he does believe there has been some progress, mostly through awareness of the issue.
“We have seen more op-eds out, people are drawing attention to it, social media is drawing attention to it, administrators are starting to address it better [the harassment],” said Snodgrass.
One of the initiatives Snodgrass has done as his time as Executive Director is the implementation of what he calls the Golden Megaphone. He travels state-wide to award schools with the megaphone and the idea is to promote cheering on the game and not berating the officials or the opposing team. He believes it has helped significantly with the issue.
“We have made unbelievable stride through students to solve the problem,” said Snodgrass. “It’s also having an effect on the parents that are at the game. If the kids aren’t doing it [harassing the refs], some of the kids turn around and tell their parents to stop.”
Snodgrass and the rest of the OHSAA teach their referees to ignore the harassment but realize that may be too much for them because of how rude the parents and crowd can get. The biggest thing they try to instill being an educated referee.
“We encourage them to let it fall on deaf ears and don’t instigate something, but also be well-informed and educated as a referee,” said Snodgrass.
As for what Williams wants to see changed as a referee, he closes with this…
“I wish we could videotape parents who display ludicrous behavior and show them how they actually look when they act like fools.”