WIAA to parents: 'Cool it'

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MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association wrote an op-ed titled ,"Dear Mom and Dad: Cool it," Thursday, asking parents to refrain from interfering with high school sports for the sake of referees and officials.

The op-ed claimed that 75 percent of high school officials claimed "adult behavior" was the primary reason they quit. Older officials retire and younger officials quit, resulting in a shortage of referees that has postponed and canceled high school athletic events across the state.

"People don't holler at the bus driver. People don't holler at the secretary in the office. People don't holler that way at teachers," said WIAA director emeritus Doug Chickering. "Judgements have to be made and you have to accept that. That's what competitive athletics is all about."

According to Chickering, reffing controversies in professional sports as well as pressures put upon student athletes to strive for scholarships are some of the elements that have led to a rise in instances of parents acting out at sporting events.

"It's trending towards more involvement. Towards more of these instances than we'd like to have," said Chickering.

WIAA basketball official Justin Oeftger remembers games where parents have gotten overzealous.

"I was reffing and a fan almost came out on the court and was yelling at me. I was like, 'I don't get paid enough for this,'" said Oeftger.

An official for 15 years, Oeftger's passion for basketball began when he played varsity in high school and continued through his years coaching youth and reffing. Though basketball has been a part of his life for decades, these incidents can shake his confidence.

"Sometimes I feel like I have a bad game and the coaches are a bit more on me, and the parents are yelling at you. Sometimes I wonder why I still do this," he said. "Fans don't know that if there's no officials, there's no game."

According to Chickering, though some parents can be problematic, for most, getting involved with their child's lives on and off the court is a healthy practice.

"It's really difficult to be critical of parents who follow their kids. Too often, we have parents who never see their kids at a game," he said.