An official thank-you

To the editor:

“You’re disgusting! You should be ashamed of yourself!” Imagine heading to work and routinely enduring comments like those as part of your job. A few weeks ago, while scouting a Friday night football game, those comments were hurled from the stands toward the officials working the game. In another recent altercation, an official resigned from working games because they were nose-to-nose with a fan following a game who was convinced they were partisan. Behaviors like these must stop.

Athletics provide incredible lessons for all participants involved in addition to the significant physiological benefits for athletes. As the father of a young son beginning to play organized sports, I am concerned that there will be fewer opportunities for athletic competition as officials begin to leave the profession. As an athletic director, I am concerned about the reduction in total number of games, the potential of not offering teams, and the consistent rescheduling of events as the number of overall officials in America continues to decline.

As fans, coaches, athletes and parents, we can and must do better. Sports will always elicit passionate responses, ranging from jubilant elation to dejected devastation and everywhere in between. There is no question our desire to win and see our teams succeed is part of the fabric of who we are. I’m simply asking that we all (myself included) work to step back and realize that officials do not have inherent biases against our school or team or community. They are human beings objectively working to the best of their ability and in turn providing positive opportunities for our children.

To all of the officials out there working youth leagues, interscholastic games and matches, and beyond, thank you. You are the backbone of American athletics, and your strength and ability to shield yourself from the harsh rhetoric (and at times physical threats) is beyond commendable. Simply put, we need you. Keep plugging; help is on the way.

Regards,

Eric Bennett

Flag football and tee ball coach

Varsity football coach

Saranac Lake Central School District athletic director

Saranac Lake

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