Fan behavior impacts our ability to get good officials - Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor:

So far this winter sports season, we have seen some troubling videos showing physical altercations that have taken place between players after games in Iowa. One even led to felony assault charges against a student-athlete. 

This past week, we witnessed an act of extremely poor sportsmanship during a basketball game at Central Lee. Thankfully, it was not a Central Lee athlete. Unfortunately, many of our athletes are learning these behaviors by watching adults in their community and games broadcasted on TV.

Recently, we had a road game at Davis County after which one of our parents felt the need to apologize for the behavior of our crowd. It is embarrassing for our fans to have to apologize for the behavior of adults at a basketball game. In this instance, our fans were expressing their displeasure with the officiating crew in a way that set a poor example for our young student-athletes. 

As a coach, I have said many times: “Good teams win regardless of the officiating.” In most cases, it is not the officials who dictate the outcome of the game, even if it may seem that way. 

I have also served as a basketball official myself. It can be a thankless job. Some officials drive multiple hours to get to games, receive very little pay, and get home after midnight before getting up early the next day for their regular jobs. I didn’t see my family on those nights, sometimes had to miss an after-school meeting, and had a meal that likely consisted of a hot dog and a Diet Pepsi. 

It’s easy to see why there is a shortage of officials right now. Angry, rude, and disrespectful fans do not help. 

There have already been several lower-level games canceled due to a lack of officials. Varsity games are being officiated by individuals who lack experience because no one else is available. What’s worse is that the most egregious incidents between fans and officials often happen at the junior high and junior varsity levels. These are the games our less-experienced officials should be working to improve their craft so that they can perform well at varsity competitions in the future. When they get berated during their learning process, it’s easy for them to give up.

We all have a role to play in fostering the next generation of officials for our student-athletes. I encourage our community members to sign up to officiate. There are some upfront expenses involved, but you can earn extra money and serve as a positive influence for our student-athletes. 

You can start by officiating at the lower levels, including fourth- through sixth-grade basketball. Contact your local school Activities Director, who will take the time to provide the support you need to move forward. 

When you come to our games, please stay positive and cheer on our student-athletes. Constant criticism of the officiating does not help during the game, nor is it productive in keeping officials over the long term. Leave it to the coaches to criticize the officiating if it becomes necessary to do so.

We are likely to see the shortage of officials continue. Games may be canceled as a result. When this happens, we all must ask ourselves: Am I making the situation better or worse when I attend a game? 

Let’s all work together to craft a more positive environment for amateur athletics in southeastern Iowa. 


Dr. Andy Crozier, Superintendent of Central Lee CSD
IHSAA Board of Control Member

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