Most of us have all been there before, whether it’s live at a game or watching one on TV and seeing the referees make what we think is a bad call. The average fan gets annoyed or claims the official is an ‘idiot’ or ‘doesn’t know the sport’. This often occurs at the high school and youth league levels, and sometimes the refs even get verbally attacked or physically threatened by coaches, players, and even parents at their child’s games.

Attorney at Law Ben Glass has seen firsthand how disrespectful people can be to referees attending his son’s soccer games at Robinson High School. According to Glass, “nobody seemed to care about the abuse the refs were getting, even the school officials at the games regularly did nothing to stop it,” he says.

Glass decided to take action in order to bring back the art of good sportsmanship. Being a soccer referee and a Father of nine, Glass felt that something had to be done.

Two years ago, Glass started a challenge known as ‘The Sportsmanship Challenge’ which awards schools $1,000 for good behavior. Since then, several local schools have reformed, including Annandale and Lee high schools, after their varsity soccer head coaches were removed.

From that point on, the coaches who were hired would go on to make good sportsmanship a part of the package for being a part of the teams. One example that Glass cited about the abuse these refs sometimes suffer, was from watching a club soccer game.

“There were three or four dads that went off on the refs and that led to the kids cussing out and flicking off the refs,” he said. The lack of respect and the poor behavior led to Glass being convinced that, “we need to incentivize better behavior from everybody.”

The problem isn’t just at the high school level, it appears to be rampant across the entire sporting world and can influence young athletes to be belligerent. On the professional level, Glass also cited that the blown call in the NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints & the Los Angeles Rams as an example of, “Refs being human; bad calls should just be accepted and not used as justification for attacking the officials.”

The overall changes and signs of better behavior has started to show, even if things aren’t growing quickly, Glass says, and he is still happy with the progress being made. “In life,” Glass explained, “you deal with adversity all the time in life, so you got to learn how to adapt.” Even in places as far away as South Dakota, one of Glass’s colleagues is starting the challenge as well. “High school sports teaches you a lot of life lessons you’ll need, these values get ignored when we don’t encourage good behavior,” Glass said.

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