'We've lost officials.' Combative coaches, parents run off referees leaving void in youth sports

Proposed bill would make serious assaults a felony
Youth sports referees
Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 30, 2022

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Youth sports leagues can't seem to hold on to referees.

Aggressive and sometimes physical parents and coaches are contributing to that.

"Part of it is because of the pay-scale, but a lot of it is because of the same problems we see as a society: it's my way or the highway," said Charlie Tygard, a referee. "You and I can be friends and disagree, but when it comes to basketball, there is no room for disagreement, so we've lost officials because of bad experiences."

Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a specific penalty for assaulting a sports official. Depending on the severity of the assault, it would be a Class A misdemeanor or Class E felony.

Tygard, who served for six terms on Metro Council, wishes fans knew most referees in youth leagues are giving it their best shot.

"As an official, you just try to call it evenly. What you call on this end, you call on the other end of the court, and hopefully set an example to these kids," Tygard said.

At the beginning of January, a top Tennessee House Republican lawmaker was ejected from a high school basketball game after getting into a confrontation with a referee. A video showed Rep. Jeremy Faison either attempting to or pretending to pull down the official's pants. Faison has apologized.

West Nashville Sports League needs more officials, referees and umpires. If you are interested in officiating basketball, soccer, football, baseball or another sport reach out to the organization.