When bad sportsmanship is mentioned, images of a rowdy student section or a disrespectful student-athlete may come to mind, but the issue is bigger than that. Unfortunately, the bad behavior on display is often perpetrated by adults and the parents who have come to watch their kids compete.
Most high school athletic directors and administrators would agree that their greatest challenge in hosting an event is not getting the facilities ready for a competition or preparing for hundreds or even thousands of spectators, but dealing with behavior issues and lack of sportsmanship during the game.
Many area referees say it is time for parents to start holding themselves and their sons and daughters accountable for bad behavior.
There's been too much taunting, too much trash-talking and too many people in high school sports who are choosing confrontation instead of contemplation.
These actions of the fans’ unruly behavior is sending some referees packing.
Many of them have grown weary of the hysteria over every backcourt violation and charging call.
Around the country, it has become harder to find youth sports officials and to keep experienced ones on the job. The situation has forced some games to be postponed and others to be played with short-handed crews. In some places, it is not unusual for football referees to work two games on long and exhausting Friday nights. Spot shortages are also common in soccer and volleyball.
The cause of the problem is not a mystery to those in striped shirts, who are growing weary over abuse from agitated fans, most of them adults.
How the numbers of officials nationally have been affected is hard to measure. A sampling of state high school associations suggests the count has been relatively unchanged the past few years.