Out-of-control parents and violent players have often made being a referee for youth sports games a dangerous activity. In September 2015, for instance, a San Antonio, Texas, high school assistant coach allegedly ordered two of his players to target an official during a game. During the incident, which was caught on video, one player slammed the referee to the ground, while another hit him again while he was still down. From the video, the act appeared intentional, and the players later claimed that they were following the instructions of an assistant coach. The injured referee allegedly suffered a concussion and back pain and is also claiming he now has an anxiety disorder that stems from the incident.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident, and it's not just the players that refs have to worry about. Angry parents have also attacked referees. In 2011, a youth football referee was attacked by parents and players and suffered a fractured shoulder as a result. He sued and was eventually awarded $275,000. Parents have even been known to attack young umpires and refs. And these incidents aren't limited solely to football leagues—refs have also been attacked during baseball, soccer and hockey games.
The Fear of Assault
If you are a referee for a youth sport, you have probably been yelled at by overzealous parents, coaches and players in the past. And it has probably been in the back of your mind that there is a chance you could be assaulted one day. So what should you do if your worst fears do come true and you are attacked?
- Stop the game. Even if you feel that you have not been injured during an assault, it's time to end the game. Once tempers have flared, the situation could escalate, and more than likely, you won't be in a state of mind to continue officiating the game anyway.
- Call the police. If the attacker(s) is still in the vicinity, seriously consider having them arrested. Assaults on officials need to be deterred.
- Report the incident to the league. Often, a person who attacks a referee will be banned from attending or playing in future games.
- Get the name and contact information of any witnesses. You may need these later for criminal or civil proceedings.
- Seek medical attention immediately. Even if you feel okay after the incident, adrenaline could be masking possible injuries. Make sure to tell the physician about all of the injuries you believe you may have suffered. If your case should go to court later, the attorney for the defendant will question any injury that you did not tell your physician about on your first visit.
- Speak with a personal injury lawyer. An attorney can help you recover for your medical bills and any lost wages that you may incur. And if your injuries are very serious, a lawyer could help you get monies to cover any long-term care you could require. They may also be able to prove that you will have loss of future earnings due to injuries you sustained from the assault.
- Locate any videotapes of the incidents. Ask witnesses if they took any videos or know of anyone who was filming during the incident. You may even want to check YouTube or other social media sites to see if anyone has uploaded a clip of the attack.
It is truly unfortunate that referees have to worry about these types of assaults, especially since many are doing this job as a way to help out the sports that they love. And without properly trained officials, organized youth sports could not function. Contact a personal injury lawyer through a firm like Swartz & Swartz P.C. for more advice.