Youth sports officials must focus more on the kids

Youth sports officials must focus more on the kids


By Donald Russoniello

Certified Youth Sports Administrator

One of the biggest problems I’ve faced in youth sports is finding officials who will officiate the basketball game properly and not act as though it’s simply just a way to make money.

During my 15 years in youth sports I’ve seen and heard officials treat the game for youth as just a paycheck. The officials don’t want to see it from the children’s point of view that the game they are officiating has a much larger meaning for them.

Children love game days and competing on the court, and how they and their team perform impacts their won-loss record and where they finish in the standings. So for these young players their games have the same importance as they do for high school and college players.

Many officials often say that if they call everything the children do wrong in every game that no team would score – or the game would take forever to complete. I tell them that if they are consistent in calling only the violations and fouls that give one team the advantage in the forecourt, or when pressed in the backcourt, the children would learn faster and more efficiently.

Plus, I tell them that if they would take just 10 seconds to explain to a child what they did wrong that the play will gradually improve and eventually they will be calling fewer violations and fouls as the kids learn the various facets of the game and develop a better understanding of the rules and how they are applied.

I am making some progress in getting officials to at least explain to players what they did wrong. This has calmed down many of the parents and coaches, but there is still a long way to go.

I have used basketball as my example since we are in basketball season, but this problem with officials exists in all sports.

If they would just make a little more effort to teach what they know to the kids, their job would become easier and less frustrating for them, as well as everyone else.

And the young athletes would understand, appreciate and enjoy the game more!

Donald Russoniello is the director of the Youth Sports & Fitness program for Joint-Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey. He is also a Certified Youth Sports Administrator and a member of the CYSA Leadership Committee, which is a group of recreation professionals that provides support and direction for community youth sports programs nationwide.

CYSA Basketball Officiating

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