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Apr 4 2024

Respect the Refs: A Call to Sportsmanship in Youth Lacrosse

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As the lacrosse season kicks off this week for Big Walnut Lacrosse’s youth teams, we're excited to see our players take the field, showcase their hard work at practices, face some great competition from other Central Ohio teams, and simply enjoy the game. 

Before we dive headfirst into that thrill of competition, let’s bring front and center a fundamental aspect of why we choose to have our kids play a sport like lacrosse: sportsmanship. 

Our coaches are committed to teaching respect for one’s self, coach, teammates, opponents, and referees.

As parents, we set the example. You better believe our kids can hear our voices while they’re on the field. What are we saying to the refs? What are we saying about the refs, both on the sidelines and during the car ride home? And how is that influencing our kids’ focus, their attitudes during and after the game, and how they play today and next week?

“If we're more focused on criticizing the referee's performance than we are on how much effort and attitude our kids give, what message are we sending our kids?”
– The Reformed Sports Project

Playing lacrosse is hard. By now you’ve seen the bruises on your kid’s arms and legs. That’s just par for the course. But lacrosse is hard to watch, too, when it’s your kid on the field. You want them to be safe. You want them to play well. You want them to have fun. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we want to feel a little pride, too, in how they play. That’s ok. That’s normal. The trick is to keep that emotion tampered down and focus on the truths.

TRUTH #1: They are all kids.
The refs you see on the youth lacrosse fields are kids themselves. They are area high school student-athletes who have chosen to spend their limited time off from school and their own spring lacrosse season back on the lacrosse field, earning a few bucks and giving back to the game.

We must acknowledge that referees, like everyone else, are not infallible. These referees are kids. They will make mistakes. They will miss calls. Why? Because the adults do, too. Lacrosse is a FAST game – the fastest sport on two feet as they say. There’s a lot to see in split seconds, and the refs are encouraged to throw the flag first and wave it off if need be. Be patient. Be kind. Rest assured they have bosses who will be monitoring, evaluating, and guiding them.

What matters most is the integrity of the game and the spirit in which it's played. By respecting the referees, we demonstrate to our kids that the essence of youth sports lies not in the outcome of the game, but in the lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the memories created.

TRUTH #2: If the refs aren’t there, there is no game.
The National Association of Sports Officials found that the No. 1 reason referees do not come back or become officials is because of fan behavior and safety.” The refs willingness to be there makes it possible for our kids to have the opportunity to play. No refs means no game, and if that’s the case, we all lose.

TRUTH #3: Our reputation stays with us for a very, very long time.
We hope your player has aspirations to play at the next level for the Big Walnut middle and high school lacrosse teams. What you’ll find out very quickly is our lacrosse community’s reputation lasts far beyond the youth years, either for better or worse. The way we train ourselves to deal with our big parent emotions and carry ourselves on the sidelines today will have an impact on our kid’s game for many years to come.

TRUTH #4: No scholarships will be earned this season.
The games are important to our kids and our coaches, and bluntly, after all the money, the time driving here and there, and the crazy spring schedules and weather, it’s important to us parents, too. But it's crucial to remember that there are no college scouts in attendance on youth Sundays. The primary focus of these games should be on creating an environment where our players can learn, grow, and most importantly, have fun. And snacks. Snacks are always important. And keeping track of the water bottles. And the cleats. And the sticks. And the mouthguard. Parents, we have enough to deal with. Don’t add expectations for your kid’s performance to that list.

As members of the Big Walnut Lacrosse community, let's commit to championing sportsmanship both on and off the field. Let's celebrate the dedication of our young referees and encourage them in their roles. Let's lead by example, showing our children the importance of grace, humility, and respect in victory and defeat.

Let's honor the game, our opponents, and the referees alike.

Play hard, play fair, and most importantly, play and watch with respect.

Let’s be BIG out there.

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