Youth Sports – Simply For The Kids?

When you sign your child up for a sport you expect them to be taught the rules and how to play the game properly. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a volunteer organization or the coaches are paid. Simply put, the people who oversee the game need to understand how it works.

You don’t want your child to go out onto the baseball field wearing shin guards that are meant for soccer games.  You don’t want them to step onto the basketball court with a baseball helmet on.  It sounds simple but these are the fundamentals.

It’s like driving a car.  When you get behind the wheel you expect that the other drivers have been taught to keep their cars to the right side of the yellow line.  That is why there is a driving violation known as failure to keep right.

Or wearing a seatbelt – this is to keep you safe.

We have laws and rules in games and in life that help to keep everyone safe.  Whether it’s our children or ourselves.
As a human, it’s only natural to criticize the ones who enforce these rules.  As a referee, it can be tough to take on the role of calling the game based upon the laws of the game. The problem is when organizations put people in charge of monitoring games that have not spent time with the rule book.

A town cannot put a building inspector on the job who does not know the laws and town code otherwise things are going to be missed.  It’s possible buildings are going to be put up improperly and lives are going to be put at risk.

The same can be said for a referee especially when judging youth contests.  Slide tackles can hurt young people and late challenges can harm a defenseless goalie.  As much as the game is supposed to be competitive there has to be an environment of safety.  Those who aren’t trained and focused, struggle to maintain that condition.

We all are aware that refs are going to get flak from everyone no matter whether you are right or wrong – paid or volunteer. This is the nature of being an official, and it is something that referees must learn to deflect. Those that cannot stand the heat have to get out of the kitchen, it’s as simple as that.  That’s not to say that parents, coaches and players can berate them over and over.

However, the referee does miss calls and the referee can be wrong.  Sometimes the referee is paying attention to two players that are going at each other on one side of the field while the ball goes out.  The ref may call the ball for one team while the coach and player for that team may say “no we kicked it out.”  The ref may change that call.  The coaches are allowed to question that call.  If the coaches have a question about why the ref called something then they can question that.  Sports are not run as a dictatorship.  The ref is not Stalin, nor should the ref act like that.

Maybe with all this “you aren’t supposed to talk to the ref” stuff we’ve gotten a little too unfair. You can’t say to the ref, “hey listen there’s two players in the box on a penalty shot. They can’t be there?”

However we are losing out to the finer points that need to be adhered to.  Keeping your feet planted and making a good throw in soccer.  The in-bounds play as well as dribbling in basketball.  Learning the fundamentals.  It is the fundamentals that form the basis of the game.  Maybe I’m a stickler but if you don’t frame the puzzle you can’t fill it in.
Unfortunately though not only are we letting down ourselves by not learning the rules but we are letting down the kids. They look to us to show them the proper way to play the game.
Imagine playing baseball and being able to hit a foul ball and running to first base because the umpire didn’t bother to learn the rules.
Imagine playing basketball and dribbling around defenders out-of-bounds because the referees didn’t learn the rule book.
Or they gave a free throw when the ball was kicked.

Wouldn’t you get furious as a coach?

Shouldn’t we expect those who volunteer to referee to understand the rules of the game?

If you are going to use the excuse that soccer is hard to learn, read the NBA rule book. I have. I can tell you that there is no reason that 10-12 year old children can’t be expected to be refereed by someone who knows the rules.

We have to take a look at ourselves. Are we ruining it for the children? I don’t know.  However, they are old enough to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. Are we ruining it for other adults? For the ones who care enough to know the rules and show up on time, give their and everything they have to care about…yeah we are killing them.  At the same point maybe some people need to ask themselves what they are doing it for?  Are they doing it for the kids?  Are they doing it to live through their kids?  Do they care about the game?  Or is it just about another ounce of power?  Who cares if we teach the kids the right rules so they can go on to play at higher level knowing the RIGHT way to play the game, “I just want to be able to say I have control and I can tell other adults what to do.”  Sad.

But this is the state of the world we live in.  Sadly you never see the cards until they play their hand – then it’s too late.  Call me crazy but this isn’t the game I signed up for.  I only wanted to show kids the right way to play soccer not argue over who has the best hand.