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STATEWIDE — Verbal abuse by parents is the main reason why there is a shortage of game and event officials at the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

That’s according to IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox in an open letter to all parents of student-athletes at Indiana’s high schools. In an interview with WISH-TV, Cox said parents need to either “cool it” or not come to their child’s athletic event.

“Right now there is a critical shortage of officials,” Cox said. “We have more officials that are 60 years of age or higher than we do 30 years of age or lower. If you do the math we are eventually going to run out of officials.”

With out officials there are no athletic events at all, says Cox, which keeps them from being able to teach the lessons they are trying to teach through high school athletics.

“There are a lot of lessons you learn in athletics,” Cox continued. “You learn to win and win with grace and dignity, but you also learn how to lose. Losing is bad, it’s not fatal. We need to make sure we teach young people both these lessons.”

One example Cox points to as an example of why parents need to calm down at high school sporting events is last month’s double forfeit at a girls’ basketball game between Gary 21st Century and Hammond. 

A Gary 21st Century player got angry and punched a Hammond player in the face. Instead of letting the officials diffuse the situation, which is their job, angry parents stormed the floor. Because the officials were unable to restore order, thanks to hose angry parents, the incident resulted in both teams forfeiting the game and taking a loss to their records.

“We like to stay in our office that if everyone stays in their lane, we’ll be just fine,” Cox said. “If officials can officiate the contest without interference, coaches can coach the young people, the student-athletes can play the game, and fans can cheer loudly and proudly for their school.”

Cox added, if you would like to be a part of the solution to the shortage of high school officials, you can sign up to become a licensed official at Otherwise, adult role models at high school athletic events here in Indiana are always welcome.

(PHOTO: thomasnorthcut/Thinkstock)