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  • Yelling at Refs Doesn’t Work

    I hear people complain about reffing. If you want better, shut up. it’s OK to notice and be critical. Refs know when they make mistakes. 

    So why do I say shut up? I’ve spent endless hours watching sports at all levels. I’ve heard lots of useless yelling at officials. I’ve sever seen a call change. When I was younger, I was one of those people.

    Yelling activates the fight or flight response, which makes it harder for refs to do their jobs, especially if they are under 18. 

    We know yelling at refs doesn’t work. So why do we do it?

    Safety. We mistakenly feel like we are protecting our people, our kids or our team.   

    It feels unfair, like we’re getting screwed or the refs are out to get us and our team. It creates an enemy, and we need to create a purpose that distracts us from our own.

    Even though there is no danger, we will react — maybe overreact. That’s normal. Swearing, personally attacking, raging and bullying is not. I’ve heard numerous stories of overreactions — even a 16 year old referee being followed home.

    You know this. How big of a problem is it? 

    In my work with people who lose control at refs or anybody, it’s usually because their past hurts get triggered. 

    When my son was born, I knew I had to be better. My wife said so.

    How did I do that? First, I made a commitment to myself and a higher purpose — to God, my kid, the legend of Hobey Baker, and my clients. 

    Every game I went to — I made a decision to just shut up.

    It was hard, but over time it got easier. I had to reflect on inside reactions and address the hurts that drove it, the mindset and the self talk.

    I ran the clock and goal judged at Augsburg hockey games, which required me to shut up.

    As I met and worked with people from programs around the country, it got even easier. Friendships and relationships with the “enemy” humanized people.    

    Being a responsible person means being aware. You may not be able to get others to stop. My experience is that it’s difficult and can be scary. The minimum you can do is to shut up and not contribute to the atmosphere. 

    So how do you know if you need to do more work on this? Do you have to leave games often because you feel out of control? Do you get verbal and non-verbal feedback that you are out of control? Have you gotten kicked out or been warned by officials or a team manager or a coach?  If so, you might want to consider talking to someone about it. After all, that shows mental fitness and commitment to others and your community. It’s uncomfortable for others when you can’t control yourself.

    Add on another simple but effective tip: limit your use of alcohol before games. I know that may not be fun, but most of the worst incidents with refs are aided by alcohol.