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Dunn: We need to change the culture in youth sports

We need to change the culture in youth sports. There is no reasonable explanation for adults to verbally berate an official, no matter how important winning is. Yet professional and collegiate sports have given the youth game a free pass to exhibit the same irrational behavior toward someone who is doing an almost impossible, let alone thank-less, job.

Being a high school and college soccer official and a high school football official for a few years, I cannot remember a game where a fan, player or coach didn't yell at the officials. I'll admit officials are not perfect. There's a good chance an official made the wrong call, whether big or small, in every game. What I don't understand is the expectation of perfection thrust upon any referee — no matter the sport, age, experience, conditions, etc.

Yes, sports invoke passion, and that's what makes them so great and engaging. But officials, who are forced to make split-second decisions almost constantly during a game without any slow-motion replay, will get calls wrong. It's part of the game, and fans have the right to disagree with a call, but there's always a respectful way to get a point across.

Just like a sports team, where some players are standout performers, some referees are really good at what they do, while others are brand new to the game and still have some work to do to get better. Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, referees make mistakes. Every referee wants to get every call right, but human error has and always will be part of sports and life in general.

When referees make mistakes, we should expect them to learn and not make the same mistake again, so referees should be held accountable. That, however, doesn't authorize that free pass. Next time you disagree with a call, be a role model and remember high school and youth athletics are extensions of the classroom. Respect the game and the people giving up time with friends and family to give to the games we all love. Not many feel the pressure and criticism justifies the money or satisfaction that comes from being a referee. Few referees are professionals. Most of us don't want to be at that level. It's a hobby, a side job. Most get paid for their work, but it's not anything you can live off. Officials aren't there to get yelled at or be biased for a certain team. They're there for the love of the game, the satisfaction they feel after officiating a good game, and helping facilitate a contest to the best of their ability.

Ask almost any assignor for local sporting events (you are reading one now), and that person will tell you there is a massive shortage of referees in all sports that use officials. Become a part of the solution; we are always looking for more officials. Without referees, there wouldn't be any games in any sports.

Dunn is an area high school soccer and football referee who also assigns referees to youth and high school soccer games.

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