An Open Letter to Georgia High School Administrators, Athletic Directors and Coaches
Georgia’s High School Administrators, Athletic Directors, and Coaches:
The state of Georgia’s passion for high school football, along with the population growth over the past decade, has driven the quality of its competition to national prestige. Georgia annually ranks among the nation’s top 5 states that places high school athletes on college rosters, a source of state and community pride, an opportunity for student-athletes, and a huge economic boost to the state at large.
Despite the ever-growing popularity and impact of Georgia high school athletics, there is also a growing problem. As the ranks of Georgia high school game officials’ ages, and veteran officials approach retirement, the pool of young officials to replace them is not growing at the rate necessary to meet or maintain the current
There are several factors exacerbating this challenge, but the growing abuse from coaches, players, and fans is one of the most influential reasons 18- to 24-year-old are saying “no” to officiating and the 10- to 15-year officials are saying “enough is enough” and quitting. Too often across competitions and sports, officials are faced with a level of abuse that is unacceptable and untenable for maintaining the necessary pool of participants needed to keep up with even our current demands for competent, dedicated officials, much less the
needs we will face as the number of officials required for these events increases while our numbers dwindle.
The sports we love and that do so much for so many cannot be played without officials any more than they can be played without athletes, coaches, or competitive institutions. And so it is toward the athletes, coaches, and administrators of these institutions that we are reaching out to grow awareness of this pressing issue of
abuse of officials as they try to do their part to support and grow our shared enterprise of high-school athletics in Georgia.
We need Administrators and coaches to understand the nature of this problem and to work together with us and with their players and fans to foster cultures of respect and decorum that we all point to as one of the most important lessons to be learned from competition. We need the people that have the most contact with players and fans working to raise awareness of the issue of abuse and to make it clear to those they influence on an
almost daily basis that such activity will not and cannot be tolerated.
We ask that you stand with us in making athletic competitions in our state exemplary of the types of lessons we hope to learn from and teach through these competitions and the enterprise of sports. We need you to help us by recommitting yourselves and those you represent and that represent you and your institutions to the notion of respect: respect for one’s self, respect for what and who you represent, respect for one’s opponents, and respect for the rules and those who take on the difficult and thankless task of applying them, officials.
These are complicated problems that we must face, and ultimately resolve together. They are not quick-fix issues and will require consideration and collaboration towards our common goals, and we hope you will reach out to the GAOA to help us face them together.
For starters: to all involved in high school athletics, model professional behavior in the way you treat game officials and in the way you talk about them in front of your students and fans. Insist that your athletes and fans follow guidelines set out for fair and safe play. By instilling a culture of respect, you will be teaching a rewarding lesson to your players and helping to resolve a potentially disastrous problem facing Georgia amateur athletics.
Thank you for your time and all best,
GAOA Executive Director
W. Alan Smith
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