THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
The National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) is the group that oversees high school athletics in the United States. One of its biggest issues is the shortage of officials that is plaguing the nation.
Thankfully, NFHS Executive Director Karissa Niehoff sent a blunt message back in January in an editorial titled "Dear Mom and Dad, Cool it."
The numbers are stark. According to the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), more than 75% of all high school officials quit due to adult behavior, and 80% of new officials step away after only two years of officiating.
The NFHS has recognized that these sportsmanship issues are growing because the poor behavior is not being controlled. Verbal and physical abuse is on the rise, so the NFHS hopes to be very direct with their approach.
The question that arises, though, is one of culture. Is it simply our culture that breeds this type of behavior? And if so, why? Are people, specifically coaches and parents, so blind to the fact that losing these officials will ultimately undermine the entire operation to the point of eventually not having high school sports?
One thought offered by Niehoff deals with the administrators taking an active role in this effort. Athletic Directors may need to divorce themselves from their association with their school and fandom and look to provide a good experience for all, regardless of affiliation. That means providing extra care for officials, policing fans, and speaking out against media berating. After all, many state associations overseeing high school athletics prohibit administrators from criticizing officials; do those need penalties need to be amplified?
All in all, the story is summed up properly in this quote from Mark Uyl in the article: find "one other endeavor in American society where we accept and tolerate one adult treating another adult the way that we allow spectators and coaches to treat an official."
Let me know when you find one that doesn't require a police escort.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.