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A Model For Better Youth Sports Through Education

Protecting Young Officials

When the official-coach-parent triad is working - when they are all well trained and working together - youth sports is fun and enjoyable for everyone. Unfortunately, the volunteer nature of youth sports often causes the triad to break down.

In many sports, the use of young officials is encouraged. While this is important for the long-term stability of a youth sports program, young officials, in particular, need to be protected against intimidation, or many will simply decide that the abuse isn't worth it and quit.

Here are four practical suggestions to protect youth officials from abuse:

  1. Make setting behavioral expectations about positive behavior part of the pre-game routine.  
  2. Give young and/or inexperienced officials a pre-printed card outlining rules of conduct to have coaches sign before every game. 
  3. Have officials issue warnings to coaches at the first sign of verbally aggressive behavior. If the abuse continues, empower officials to take more severe measures (up to and including declaring a forfeit) to protect the integrity of the game. 
  4. Require parent training to reduce the number of disagreements caused by ignorance of the rules and to help parents respect youth sports officials.

The Value Of Positive Peer Pressure

Parents invest their time and money in youth sports because they want their child to have a good experience and have his or her life enriched. Parents want to solve the problems that arise in youth sports, not be part of the problem. When parents are given the opportunity to do the right thing, they usually do.

Intensive parent training helps to create positive peer pressure. Having agreed to promote the positive values youth sports can instill, parents:

  • Help each other enforce the rules of positive parent participation
  • Keep problems from escalating, and 
  • Feel empowered to take whatever steps are necessary to create a positive environment.


Updated December 9, 2012