You love them. You hate them. They’re the referees at your child’s fencing tournament – or baseball, basketball, soccer or other sporting event. They’re everywhere, and they have a tough job to do. Sometimes they make great calls and other times they mess up, but they are always – for the most part – as fair as possible.

Your Referee is Likely a Volunteer

It depends on where you are, but a lot of referees are volunteers. Even those who are paid are usually acting as a referee as a side gig. In other words, they’re participating in your sport (or your child’s sport) because they love the game – and they’re knowledgeable. They are human and deserve to be treated with respect.

Their Angle is Different

The angle you are seeing a match from, up in the bleachers or on the sideline, is not the angle the referee is seeing from. This means his calls may not match what you are seeing from the stands. There is something called “ring generalship,” especially in sparring sports. This means the participants need to be consciously aware of whether or not they are in a position where the referee can see them make a score – in other words, it’s partially their fault if their point isn’t visible.  If the ref doesn’t see a point, it may be because it was hidden from their view; and your bird’s eye view from the stands doesn’t matter.

You Are Not a Referee or Coach

Unless you are – formally, that is. Otherwise, don’t talk to the referee during a match or game – ever. The players may need to do so when permissible. The only people who should have regular, respectful communication with the referees are the coaches, and even they should be more focused on their athletes than anything else. Period. End of statement. Don’t blame the ref if your child or their team loses. Don’t boo or hiss. Don’t yell from the stands during the match. You’re there to support your child – not place blame or critique calls.

Remember – it’s easy to sit on the sideline or in the bleachers and “armchair ref” a sporting event. It’s an entirely different experience when you’re down there on the floor. Please be respectful of the people who are often volunteering their time to help your kids grow in the sport they enjoy.