DES MOINES, Iowa -- Local game officials say inappropriate conduct toward referees and umpires from coaches, parents and even players has crossed a line and gotten worse in recent years.
President of the Greater Des Moines Umpires Association George Davis said game officials this year have dealt with both verbal and physical abuse.
“Umpires and referees have been hissed at and yelled at for decades from the stands and that’s appropriate, but it seems over the past few years we’ve crossed that line. The reason we have crossed that line is I think there’s a lot of stress put on athletes to ‘win at all costs’ and it’s definitely not their mistake. There’s a lot of stress put on coaches to win and if they don't win it’s someone else's fault we are always pointing the fingers as to whose fault it is instead of the athlete or the coach,” Davis said.
The lack of respect and misconduct are not specific to one sport.
The Des Moines Youth Hockey Association Director of Operations Scott Long said they make parents sign a contract acknowledging that if they are disrespectful to an official they can be asked to leave.
“They can be escorted out of the arena if they don’t leave on their own accord, but it’s just not something that we put up with. It’s just not something we want our kids to see, that type of behavior, so we stick to that zero tolerance policy,” Long said.
Davis said to even begin to correct the issue there needs to be more education on all sides.
“Rules meetings are specific to officials, game officials, referees, umpires. I think rules meetings now should be including all coaches and parents. I think that is needed as we move forward. And you’re not going to get 100 percent at parent level but certainly you would get some understanding,” Davis said.
Davis said he thinks if a spectator or parent is ejected from a game because of an issue with a game official, the ramifications should last beyond that one game so it sinks in that they caused a problem.
Long said it’s important to instill respect and sportsmanship at a very young age by being a good example.
“I think the more and more horror stories you see of how people act does do good because you don’t want to be that YouTube clip. You’re the one creating a scene like that. So I just think through education and hopefully over time we can get over that ‘win at all costs’ mentality and just understand: this is for the kids and they’re just supposed to be out there having a good time and getting exercise and learning some good lessons in life,” Long said.