Officiating In Perspective with Barry Mano

Officiating In Perspective with Barry Mano

Babysitting Service Revisited

Back in April 2013, I resisted publishing a Memo like this. I apologized to the readers for not writing it sooner. Now, I feel a need to update that Memo and run it this month.

Have you noticed that there continues to be a serious coaching-behavior problem on the sidelines? Incessant ranting. Being on the playing surface while the play is alive. Over-the-top gesturing, etc. When I see coaches acting like spoiled brats without boundary, I want to scream. What do I want to scream? “Take care of business, dammit!”

And let me note something here: The behavior of some of our own makes me want to puke. What in the hell do we think we are hired to do out there? Save the coaches from themselves? So far, I haven’t read in any rulebook, officials manual or conference communication that we officials are tasked to provide babysitting services.

Further, not only are we not directly taking care of business, we have even gone so far as to become enablers of the rotten conduct. How many times I have seen an official actually step around a screaming coach, who is standing on the playing surface itself during a play, and just pretend that the coach is not there. Incredible! At a recent game I witnessed one very well-seasoned official actually take both hands and gently nudge the coach on each arm and move him ever so gently to the sideline… and the game was full on in that very area. Are we kidding here?

We have the power, authority and responsibility to enforce bench conduct and sideline behavior. The rules committees and virtually every coordinator I have spoken with want those matters taken care of. But forget those folks for a minute and give a reality check. Coaches who act like total jerks do that for the same reason that a young kid acts out. They believe there is no boundary – they simply act out because they know there will be no meaningful consequences.

The buck stops with us. We are hired to ensure the game is well behaved. We have two tools to etch behavior boundaries – the alkali of warnings and the acid of penalties.

Rulebooks and manuals do have coverage on warnings, but much is still left to the “officiating imagination.” Talk to most referees and they will tell you that use of a warning is an important tool for game management. Ask when they use it and they grope for an answer.

Some say we have taken the use of warnings well beyond what was intended by those who write the manuals and the rules. I agree with them. Today, we fashion ourselves as kinder and gentler referees. We cajole, we wheedle, we warn, we “communicate.” Far too many times what we don’t do is enforce. We sometimes act like parents I have seen so often in a mall or airport. Their kid is acting out and they ask her to stop. She keeps it up. They ask her to stop. She keeps it up. The words of the parents have been completely devalued.

As officials, we find comfort in warning versus enforcing. That is the path of lesser resistance. We don’t want to be viewed as a “baddie” or being, excuse my French, a “hardass.” We want to belong. We like smooth. We are acting like parents of spoiled kids. We warn, warn and warn again instead of simply enforcing the law. We enable.

We would be well served to take stock of our approach. And please, stifle the howl that a schedule might suffer if we get on the wrong side of a coach. Stop yourself on that score. It is our responsibility to clean up the obscenity of obstreperous coaching behavior – college football and basketball especially, but now regrettably, in high school and youth sports. Time to take care of business.

Referee Magazine Publisher, Barry Mano’s latest Publisher’s Memo. Found in the September, 2023 issue of Referee magazine. For more information or to subscribe to Referee magazine, visit

View the Officiating In Perspective Video Archive on YouTube