Youth sports officials and referees quitting at record rates, blaming unruly parents

Youth sports referees quitting at record rates amid parents’ bad behavior

Schools and youth sports leagues across the country are struggling to retain coaches, umpires and referees due to aggressive parents on the sidelines.

Youth sports officials and referees are throwing in their whistles at record rates, Brian Kilmeade reported Friday on "Fox & Friends."

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 80 percent of high school sports officials quit before their third year on the job.

One driving force behind the trend is increasingly abusive and belligerent behavior by parents, including verbal abuse, threats and even fights.

For example, a baseball game in June for 7-year-olds in Lakewood, Colo. descended into a wild brawl among parents after a dispute over a call by a 13-year-old umpire. Several arrests were made by police.

Barry Mano, president of the National Association of Sports Officials, told Fox News that incidents like that one are far from isolated.

"Not a week goes by that we don't field a call in our offices from one of our members, or even a non-member sometimes, having to do with assaultive behavior," said Mano. He explained that a recent survey of U.S. youth sports officials found that 13 percent have been assaulted, 47 percent have feared for their safety, 57 percent have had to break up a fight between players and 64 percent have ejected a spectator over unruly behavior.

Mano's sentiments were echoed by Bob Player, who's been a high school baseball umpire for 34 years in Long Island, N.Y.

"Sportsmanship over the past several years is getting much worse on the field. It's something you almost deal with in every game in one way, shape or form. Every game," said Player, adding he and his crew have been "berated" in the parking lot by angry parents and had beer cans thrown at them a few years ago after a playoff game.


Player said more and more umpires are quitting each year, mostly because of verbal abuse and threats.

"[They say] I just can't take it anymore, it's just not worth it," he said.

Responding to the report on "Fox & Friends" Friday, sports psychologist Dr. Leah Lagos told Kilmeade she's not surprised, saying there is a "huge dropout rate" among 13 and 14-year-olds because of the "intensity" from parents and coaches. She lamented that players who are good at a sport, but perhaps not on an elite level, are deciding to give it up because it stops being fun.

"The good player loses the focus on just having fun, there is no reinforcement," she said.

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