They show up to all your kid's games, spend hours on the field with them, and the whole day is just a waste of time if they don't show up.
But plenty of parents still treat the referees at their child's youth games like trash.
Can you see the problem with this scenario?
Yes, pushy parents are driving referees away in record numbers.
And the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.
Referees can't stand pushy parents
I grew up in a hockey family, and spent the better part of my life sitting in a cold rink to watch my relatives play.
Over the years, I saw a lot of parents who seemed to think their little boy was destined to be the next Wayne Gretzky - if only the coaches and referees wouldn't interfere.
I saw officials heckled, threatened, and even physically attacked by hockey parents.
But reports from just about every sport find the same thing: parents are really aggressive, and it's scaring referees away from their jobs.
Now hiring: referees
The National Federation of State High School Associations says 80% of their refs quit after less than three years on the job.
Some sports and regions have it even worse:
- 70% of South Carolina's soccer refs quit after a year on the job.
- Only 50% of Houston's refs return to the job after a year.
- And after three years only 20% of Wisconsin's referees stick around.
And leagues are warning parents to expect serious changes because of this trend.
Expect more canceled games
What parents don't seem to appreciate is this: you can play without coaches, parents, and even star players.
But every sport needs referees.
Some leagues are already being forced to cancel hundreds of games as refs simply fail to turn up.
And they're warning parents to expect more cancellations before the number of referees picks up again.
From behind bars to wearing stripes
Iowa is so desperate for referees, it has even started recruiting non-violent inmates to put on the striped jersey after leaving prison.
That's just about the only way to find new referees.
The national organization began a hiring drive last year, but with the social media age making parents even pushier they haven't had much success.
It's one thing to be bullied by parents - now everyone on the internet can criticize a bad call if a vengeful parent records it.
A growing problem
Of course, abusive parents aren't the whole story when it comes to the country's shrinking number of refs.
For one thing, the average age of the job tends to be high. As refs retire, not enough new officials are taking their place.
The pay isn't exactly great either. About $100 per game is the average, without travel expenses or gas money.
Oh, and the number of kids playing these sports has doubled across the country.
Have you seen parents heckle or abuse referees?