BOUNCE: We all need to shoulder some blame for high school officiating crisis

An editorial released this week and co-authored by two leaders of high school athletics will hopefully hit home to a lot of people.

In the column from Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox, the finger is squarely pointed at parents for the crisis involving the lack of officials for high school events, particularly basketball. According to the column, “more than 75 percent of all high school officials say ‘adult behavior’ is the primary reason they quit.” In addition, over 80 percent of all young officials walk away from the job within two years.

Those are alarming trends, one that is the case in northeast Indiana as well. According to sources, the combination of a plethora of scheduled games, coaches “block” lists preventing some officials from doing their games, and the lack of available (and willing) bodies has made Fridays in Indiana incredibly difficult to find enough officials to do all the games.

We can all agree that the verbal abuse spewed by some parents and family members at officials are a big problem, maybe the primary one. But it isn’t the only issue.

When it comes down to it, we can all shoulder some of the blame on the referee crisis.


If there is any group under more scrutiny than refs, it is coaches. Yet this group needs to be held responsible to a certain extent.

How often do you see a high school basketball coach incessantly leaning on officials? Yelling about seemingly every call? While most coaches and officials know each other enough to know where that line is and what you can and cannot say, players and, perhaps more importantly, fans in the crowd see that targeting of officials and think, “Hey, if the coach is attacking the ref, I can too.”

Coaches are not just role models for their players, but also the adults in the crowd. Just once I would love to see a coach turn to a fan of their team who is being unnecessarily rough on an official and tell them to calm the *&#@ down.


Parents and family members can be the absolute worst on officials, particularly in girls basketball. I get it, you see your beloved little girl knocked to the floor and there is no call, you can get a tad heated.

But really, how is yelling at an amateur official help? It doesn’t. And when kids see adults being verbally abusive they think that is a green light to do the same.


Bounce would be lying if he said he wasn’t at least partly to blame for the current referee situation. I am sure myself and my other cartoon animal friends both past and present have made some comments about this ref’s call or that ref’s no-call.

And Bounce is not alone. Bad calls are magnified on social media and spread like wildfire. Good calls? Well they are just assumed to be a given and don’t receive nearly as much pub.

Media personalities must shoulder some of the blame. Bounce isn’t above admitting he needs to be better.


Bounce loves the passion shown by players on the court around northeast Indiana. What he doesn’t like is when players attempt to challenge officials on their calls. Thankfully, I have not seen much of that this year (so far).

But over the years, there have been plenty of instances I have witnessed where kids are too involved in questioning an official. Agree or disagree, just walk away and let the adults talk it over, and hope that both coach and ref are respectful of one another.


This one is not often talked about, but I believe the schools are a culprit in this as well.

As soon as an adult in the crowd crosses that line with a referee, he/she should be immediately escorted from the building…period. Has anyone ever seen an athletic director or an administrator approach a boisterous adult in the crowd who is attacking a ref and tell them to cool it? I haven’t.

In my ways, a gymnasium is a classroom. Classrooms have rules. If you disrupt a class by making inappropriate comments, you are booted from the classroom. The same should happen to anyone who goes too far when verbally abusing refs.

We all have to be better when it comes to this situation. No one thing is the end-all solution. Together, we can make officials feel more respected and appreciated. If not, we may soon see the negative repercussions in a much more magnified way.

These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH


  1. Although I agree with the majority of this article, I think one glaring omission is the referees themselves (ourselves). I think officials can be responsible for our own treatment sometimes by:
    *not setting boundaries with enough authority in the pre-game. Setting boundaries can be done in a friendly, conversational way, but we need to let coaches know that we won’t tolerate abuse. I always tell the coaches during the pre-game to not be afraid to ask a question…I’ll respond when appropriate…but please don’t yell at me. Then a firm but gentle reminder if they DO yell usually defuses the situation.
    *refusing to converse with coaches during the game. I have seen so many times when an official won’t even respond to a coach. Players and parents notice that also. Viewing interaction with coaches as a battle will come back to haunt an official every time. But, an understanding that we both have the same overall goal for the game can help us keep our perspective.
    *not keeping intimately updated with rules and mechanics each year, and then FOLLOWING them! Clinics and rules/mechanic meetings are crucial to attend
    *coming at the profession with a power attitude. None of us want to admit that we have one, but you and I have all seen officials who are in it for the power.
    *not focusing on our real reason we are on the court: to maintain a safe and fair environment for players, coaches (and fans). Focus…its key to our survival.
    *not utilizing the school administration when fans ge tout of hand. It is a part of our agreement with the home school that the game can be stopped – and not continued – until an unruly fan is removed. BUT…that is the on-site administration’s job….not the official or the coach.
    Just my perspective…

  2. Not sure about this article? It refutes a column by Niehoff & Cox by stating adult behavior MAY be the primary reason refs are leaving. Yet, the previous article was clear in stating “more than 75 percent of all high school officials say ‘adult behavior’ is the primary reason they quit.” This article provides no data to counter. In addition, this article states coaches should be examples, but then suggest a coach should “tell them (adult/parent) to calm the *&#@ down”. Example?!?! I understand we all have a part in this. However, the data from refs, coaches, and administrators leaving high school sports points primarily at parents/adults. It may not be a pleasant fact, but it’s a fact. Hopefully, we’ll all (adults/parents, coaches, schools, refs, & media) make a genuine effort to improve the situation.

  3. I am completing my sixth season as a High School Official (Basketball and Volleyball). I called 57 basketball games in December 2018. I agree with most of the article as presented. What I can say is, “The Line Has Been Crossed.” The disrespect displayed towards officiating crews come from all directions (Coaches, Players and Spectators). Basketball Officials need to pull in the reins and hold individuals accountable for their actions. Here is one example I experienced. During a recent Trip girl’s basketball game, there was a parent in the stands officiating the game. Usually I ignore individual spectators and their comments, but on this night, things went beyond permissible. This parent was continually calling for a 10 second backcourt Violation. Ultimately SCREAMING for the Violation to be called. Things got so out of hand I had to stop play and inform this individual there is “NO” ten second backcourt Violation in California High School Girl’s Basketball. I’m sure every Offical has experienced some sort of disrespectful incident. Something to consider, have an announcer read a standard notice of expectations before each game. Thereby admonishing all spectators of their need to positively support ALL players, coaches and officials. Therefore, if a spectator gets out of hand, Administration can handle the issues more effectively. The actions of Spectators should not be an Officials responsibility. Building a good rapport and establishing expectations with coaches and players is all handled during the pre-game conference. Let’s get the FUN back in the Game. But doing so, more individuals may be interested in officiating sports.

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