With the MK Battery Cup Conference Cup Series for Power Wheelchair Soccer in America approaching, we’d like to take this time to remind everyone to please be kind to our referees! They work tirelessly each and every game to try to provide the most fair playing experience possible. However, remember that they are only human. They can miss things, they can make mistakes just like any of us. Just like the athletes playing who get tired after playing multiple games in a row, they can get tired after refereeing for so many games in a row. Remember, when we get breaks between games, they often go from one game to the next to ensure each game, each team, receives the proper refereeing required for our sport. It is exhausting, but they do it because they have a passion for it! Let’s give them the recognition they deserve for taking time away from their families, and traveling across the county and the world to help ensure we can participate in the sport we love! I guarantee they love it as much as you!
However, with the recent rise in backlash given toward referees during games in all sports, there is a shortage of people wanting to become certified to referee. Parents, spectators, and players need to remember that referees, no matter how hard they try, are not perfect. They may miss a foul because they weren’t looking in that direction. They may make tough calls when it is just to close to call. They may mistakenly see the ball go out off of the wrong team, or make a 2 on 1 call that is questionable. These things can all happen, because referees cannot see everything that happens in such a fast pace game such as power wheelchair soccer, and they have to use their best judgement. But, when they are harassed, berated, and yelled at by spectators and/or players for making calls that others don’t agree with, it creates an atmosphere of not wanting to take on the role of referee. We have to remember that they are choosing to spend their time with us, to help us play our sport to the best of our abilities, and to ensure all games are as fair as possible. Without their devotion, we would not be able to play!
There has been a shift in how people react to referees in recent years. There are multiple documented examples of referees getting harassed resulting in a lack of referees through many leagues throughout our nation. See these reports from the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, National Federation of High School Associations, Sports Daily- Texas, Quad-City Times, Magicvalley.com, CBS Denver, WMBF News, and from WKOW.com who reported, “According to the National Association of Sports Officials, 80% of new officials who join up quit after two years. 75% say the main reason they quit is because of poor treatment from parents, fans, coaches and players.” While most of these reports stem from high school or other youth leagues, the shortage of referees has leaked into the power wheelchair soccer world, According to multiple current referees, there have been fewer than average new referees being trained than previous years. With many of our long standing referees getting closer to aging out, it is difficult to replace them with qualified candidates if fewer and fewer people wish to become certified.
We can help this situation, at least in our sport, by showing our referees the respect they deserve. By not harassing them if they make a mistake or you disagree with a call, by not bullying them into changing their calls, and by showing them the same sportsmanship behavior we expect from our team members and opponents. Talk with your parents, siblings, and other spectators to make sure they understand the importance of just letting the referees do their jobs, regardless of their feelings regarding a call. Talk to your athletes and let them know that whether you agree with a call or not, the referee has the final say. There are multiple new referees that will need a bit of patience and support while they learn how to referee for large tournaments. Please be patient with them as they learn so they will want to continue for years to come. Let’s show our referees that we are different than these other sports programs, and we respect and appreciate all that they do and sacrifice for us to be able to play our sport!