Video: 275-pound lineman snags one-handed INT
See the big fella get up and take one away.
I recently read an article that the Texas High School Coaches Association sent out on their weekly email. It was regarding the lack of officials in the Lone Star State. Specifically, the Dallas Football Officials Association is down about 75 referees, while the Fort Worth Football Officials group is down about 125.
This referee shortage has affected my state (California) for several years now. In fact, I've had lower level games changed just a day or two before they were scheduled on a few different occasions because of a lack of available officials.
The reason: officials have said that the environment is getting increasingly hostile.
Who is to blame? Us. Coaches. We are to blame.
I believe the shortage of football officials lies squarely on our shoulders as the torchbearers of this great game. I started asking officials a few years ago if things were really worse than before, or if this was just a rumor.
"Are we really worse now than 10 years ago?" I asked a 20-year official. His response "Oh yeah, way worse!"
He went on to tell me that 10 or 15 years ago he would hear from the head coach if there was an issue, now everyone on the sidelines feels entitled to get after them.
"It's difficult when you know you've blown a call, or your partner has blown a call," He said. "We are human, it's going to happen. In the past, we would come to the sideline and get an earful from the head coach. Now, we get it from everyone."
Coaches, we have to change this. We have got to take the bull by the horns for the sake of this game, for the sake of sportsmanship and for the sake of teaching our young men how to have respect for authority.
Here are three ways to help out officials in 2017.
1. One voice
I spent eight years as a head coach, and my policy was that my assistants never spoke to the officials. This was a non-negotiable for me. If you have an issue, bring it to me. This was wise advice from a mentor of mine when I became a head coach. "Don't let your assistants talk to the officials, or they will blow it for you."
If the officials know that you respect their job and speak to them with just one voice from the sidelines, you are going to help the officials do their job. In turn, you're going to build a great reputation as a coach.2. Keep the sidelines clear
Another major complaint from officials that I've heard over the years is there being too many people on the sidelines. These people, many of whom aren't nearly as invested in the outcome of the game as you are, often berate the officials any chance they can.
They see the officials as enemies. Keeping your sideline clear of anybody who doesn't need to be on them will help the officials.
They appreciate a clean sideline, and not having to micromanage the crowd by continually backing them up. This really is the job of the athletic director, but sometimes the head coach will have to take control of this situation.3. Teach the kids respect
My rule when as a head coach was that you run the ball to the officials after you score. This is a sign of respect for their job. I stole this from the coach before me. It's a simple rule, but it helps to teach the players to respect the position of the officials, and the job that they have. If an official tells you that a kid is mouthing off, you need to have that official's back, support him the best you can by having a word with that kid.
We, as coaches, have a deep responsibility to the officials. Without them, we don't play. They are human — just like you and me. Set the tone in your community. Let your parents know that you will not tolerate the badgering of officials. Let your staff know that you will not tolerate, and teach your kids how to give them respect. They have earned it simply by stepping out on to the field. Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.