Keep Calm & Don’t Get Thrown Out: Dealing With A Difficult Youth Sports Official


Fact: Youth sports officials make mistakes, and some of them can be hard to deal with.

Also a fact: Their mistakes and shortcomings do not justify you having a meltdown in front of a bunch of 10-year-olds.

If you’ve ever been involved in youth sports, you’re probably painfully aware that there are people out there who still struggle with that concept. In a perfect world, that would disqualify them from coaching, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

Plain and simple, it’s up to you, the coach, to make sure that you handle yourself appropriately when dealing with an official, even when they’re in the wrong.

Set an example by keeping your cool

Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: If you have a problem with an official, you must (repeat: MUST) stay calm. You might be frustrated, you might be fed up, you might be extremely angry, but you absolutely cannot allow your emotions to get the better of you.

There is no scenario where losing your temper will improve the situation, no matter how you look at it.  Best case, nothing gets resolved. Worst case, nothing gets resolved, you look like a childish moron, set a terrible example for your team and end up kicked out of the league, or worse if it escalates.

Even if your complaint is valid, there’s no way the league will support you after you throw a hissy fit. And if you REALLY lost your cool, you may find yourself in legal trouble as well.

If there is a problem that you have to discuss with an official, discuss it calmly and respectfully. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for an explanation, plead your case, and (in most cases) to ask for a second opinion. If after all that you still feel strongly that you’ve been wronged, consider protesting the game and allow the league to resolve the situation.

Not only does this set a better example for your team, it’s far more likely to swing the situation in your favor.

Know what you’re talking about, but be open minded

There’s nothing worse than vehemently arguing a point, only to find that you were actually wrong the whole time. And believe me, there’s nothing an official loves more than a good “shutting down an angry coach” story.

Luckily, this can be easily avoided with one simple step: Learn the rules of the game as best you can (which you should have already done because you’re a coach).

This is incredibly important for a couple reasons. One is the aforementioned “not getting embarrassed” reason, but the other is a bit more practical.

Real talk: There have been and will always be instances where an official misinterprets a rule or just gets it flat out wrong. They’re human beings, not robots.

Trouble is, in order for you to plead your case in those situations, YOU HAVE TO KNOW THE RULES. Even if that official is dead wrong, it won’t make a lick of difference if you can’t explain WHY they’re wrong.

And if you’re really not sure, consider that maybe that official actually knows what they’re talking about. It might sound crazy, but it’s these people’s job to know the rules, and while there are certainly some bad officials out there, the majority of them take that responsibility seriously.

REMEMBER: It’s just a game, and it’s being played by children

No matter who is wrong or who is right, there’s one fact that is undeniable: not only is it just a game, it’s just a game and KIDS are playing it.

We get it, every parent wants the best for their kids, and every coach wants the best for the kids on their team. When you end up in a situation where you feel like they’re being unfairly treated, it can be easy to get upset.

But when all is said and done, what’s more harmful for a kid: Being the victim of a bad call, or witnessing their parent and/or coach throwing a tantrum over a game?

And it’s not just about teaching kids a good life lesson (although that is very important). What if you end up with a team full of players who think it’s okay to mouth off whenever something doesn’t go their way?

“Good! I want these kids to stick up for themselves because that’s what WINNERS do! They won’t get pushed around!” Makes sense. Until playoff time rolls around and your star player has a problem with a call and gets ejected, then throws a fit and ends up suspended.

The lesson that everyone should walk away with is this: there’s a right way and wrong way to deal with officials, and acting like a petulant child is never the right way. You’ll get in trouble, you’ll look like a fool, and you won’t win the argument.

Photo: Joel Dinda / CC 2.0