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10/18/22- Enough is Enough: Bad Behavior by Coaches, Parents and Fans Must Stop

October 19, 2022 2022-2023 News Releases


Enough is Enough: Bad Behavior by Coaches, Parents and Fans Must Stop
By Dr. Karissa Niehoff, Chief Executive Officer of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and Julian Tackett, Commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association

There’s an unfortunate trend continuing in Kentucky and across the nation that must be stopped: the bad behavior of coaches, parents and fans at high school athletic events. When this campaign was first proposed, there were several sounding the alarm. But here in Kentucky, we find the problem particularly growing right now. Fall sports are in the later rounds or late parts of their season. People get particularly negative when their team has their season end, even when clearly the superior team was victorious. so let’s take a deep breath and reset.

We’ve all seen it: the yelling, harassing, berating, disrespecting and even physically assaulting high school referees, umpires and other officials during and after games. And oftentimes, the harassment continues on social media. Perhaps you’ve witnessed it firsthand or even been one of those offenders yourself. Not only is this behavior unacceptable and embarrassing, but it’s also having serious consequences on the future of high school sports.

That’s because another unfortunate trend is sweeping the nation: a critical shortage of high school officials in every state, including Kentucky. The #1 reason? You guessed it: Coaches, parents and fans mistreating officials. And no, this doesn’t excuse performance that doesn’t meet the professional football, soccer or volleyball level of officiating. Oh, that’s right, the players and coaches don’t always perform up to those levels either. That it the beauty of high school sports, its imperfections by all involved. But its undeniable effort is a work of art.

National surveys of officials report alarming statistics: (see the link at the bottom of the page)
• 55% of officials say verbal abuse from coaches, parents and fans is the #1 reason they quit.
• 59% don’t feel respected.
• 57% think sportsmanship is getting worse.
• 84% feel officials are treated unfairly by spectators.
• 46% have felt unsafe or feared for their safety due to spectator, coach, administrator or player behavior.

Officials are quitting faster than new ones are signing up. It’s a major area of concern for states like Kentucky just to cover games. We’re already seeing middle school and JV games being canceled and, in some cases, varsity games too. Or worse, having to adjust playing dates at the last minute. All because there aren’t enough officials.

Unfortunately, bad behavior at high school athletic events has become somewhat normalized. It is almost expected that coaches, parents and fans will disrespect the individuals serving as officials.

This culture of bad behavior and the negative perception of officials must change now. Everyone involved in high school sports—parents, coaches, administrators, fans, the media—must turn their focus to the student-athletes playing the games and away from the individuals officiating the contests.

The bottom line: With no high school officials, there can be no high school sports.

That’s why the NFHS has partnered with state high school associations across the country to launch the nationwide #BenchBadBehavior campaign. We’ll use the power of social media along with other tools to help educate everyone about the importance of good behavior at high school athletic events.

You can help by being a positive role model at your high school’s athletic events. And if you think you have what it takes to be a licensed official, sign up today at and help fill an urgent need in Kentucky!

See the data from the latest survey below-

Officially Human: The State of Sports Officiating 2020; National Association of Sports Officials: National Officiating Survey


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