Players, coaches, and parents are getting thrown out of youth sporting events more now than ever. While there are a number of reasons for this, it is important that we should all take responsibility for our actions. If a coach gets tossed, he or she should own up to the decisions that led to an ejection. If a player gets tossed, they should be held accountable.
Granted, things are seldom so simple. Perhaps the ejection was the result of a genuine misunderstanding. Perhaps the official or the umpire skipped breakfast and was in a terrible mood. Whatever the case may be, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle player ejections in youth sports.
Youth basketball ejections are typically the result of a player receiving two technical fouls. There are in fact a set of offenses which by rule lead to a technical foul. These actions include fighting, blatant taunting of an opponent, intentional jersey violations, goaltending a free throw, and much more. However, at the youth level, most technical fouls are a result of a young athlete talking back to an official. Do this twice, and you are out of there.
It is also possible to get ejected from a basketball game for a single infraction should the infraction be sufficiently egregious. For example, the NBA rulebook states that “the deliberate act of throwing the ball or any object at an official by a player, coach, trainer, or other team bench person is a technical foul and violators are subject to ejection from the game.”
Youth baseball ejections do not come with any formal warning. Umpires may choose to talk to a young player before an ejection (and should do in most cases), but there are no penalties in baseball. There are no technical fouls. If a youth athlete is going to get caught for an offense, they will likely be thrown out of the game.
While basketball may have a list of infractions leading to an ejection, baseball has a more nebulous set of circumstances. There are rules about ejections for corked bats and so forth, but the vast majority of ejections come from unsportsmanlike conduct or language.
There are, however, a number of unwritten rules of baseball conduct. Players and coaches may dispute a call with an umpire so long as they don’t show the umpire up. Making the umpire look bad is a big no-no.
Ejections also may stem from intentionally hitting batters, but this is rare at the youth level.
So how can a coach, player, or even a parent voice their opinion without getting tossed? It is all about respect. Umpires and officials are human beings. They make mistakes. Very rarely will a referee intentionally make a bad call to impact the outcome of a game.
Discussing a call during the game can be done respectfully by speaking with the official or umpire without raising one’s voice or making a scene. Even better, ask for clarification rather than arguing a call. Perhaps the call was based on something you didn’t see. At the very least, you can get a better understanding and have the opportunity to state your case.
If a youth athlete has a complaint with an official or umpire, the coach should step in when possible. Young players should not be arguing balls and strikes or personal fouls. That is the coach’s job.
This is a tough one. There are several factors to consider before choosing the appropriate action:
Last but not least, you must determine whether or not disputing a game based on officiating is even worth it. Remember, these are kids we are dealing with. Every action we take sets an example. There are certainly situations where grave injustices should be fought, but youth sports is often not all that serious.
The decision is ultimately up to you. We just urge everyone involved to retain their perspective throughout the process. A missed call and a lost game are not the end of the world! When cooler heads prevail, we can enjoy the sports we love without any ill will.
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