WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A referee reportedly quit on the ice during a youth hockey tournament in Warwick over the weekend after a tense confrontation with the visiting teams’ parents.
“I think that game was one small, small example of a major problem,” Jon Lounsbury, whose daughter plays youth ice hockey, told 12 News.
Lounsbury was at Thayer Arena in Warwick on Saturday to watch his daughter and their team of 9- and 10-year-old girls from Massachusetts take on another Under-10 team from Pennsylvania.
“The parents on the other side … Nothing sat well with them with the officiating,” Lounsbury said. “They’re little kids, so they go up and down, they fall, they run into each other. It’s fun, it’s more competitive than what people would think, but at the same time … they’re just doing the best they can.”
That led to a verbal altercation between one of the referees, a teenager, and parents from the Pennsylvania team, who continued to yell at the referee, according to Lounsbury.
“She broke down. She asked one or two parents to leave, they kind of bantered back in forth. What was said, I couldn’t hear, but it put the referee in tears and she left the game,” Lounsbury said.
This problem is nothing new.
In a survey of referees across all sports conducted back in 2017 by the National Association of Sports Officials, 57% said sportsmanship is getting worse, not better, with a majority saying sportsmanship is at its worst levels in youth sports.
More than 39% of the referees surveyed said parents caused the most problems with sportsmanship.
“We want our kids to grow up to be the best version of themselves, and this is how we’re acting. It’s just sad,” Lounsbury said. “Sports are being ruined … by individuals who are in it for other reasons than the benefit of their kid.”
The team from Pennsylvania won 1-0 over the Massachusetts team, according to the box score.
After the game, Lounsbury posted a photo to social media, showing his daughter and her teammates checking to see if the referee was OK, which he said was a moment that made him a proud parent.