A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

High school football official Bob Miller says angry spectators have followed referees into the locker room and to their cars after games.

Wrestling official Sean Brocking has ejected entire sections of spectators from events because of verbal abuse.

Multisport official Patty Richter writes down the license plate numbers of fans who act in an abusive or threatening way in case she needs to report them to the police.

The number of umpires, referees and officials is declining on Long Island and nationwide, a decrease blamed on the onslaught of verbal abuse from parents, spectators, players and coaches, according to Newsday interviews with more than two dozen sports officials, school administrators and high school coaches. Statistics from Nassau and Suffolk counties show there has been a sharp drop in the number of people willing to officiate since 2011-12. According to lists published by each county, Nassau has seen a 25% drop in the number of referees since the 2011-12 school year, while Suffolk has experienced an 18% decline.

The verbal abuse and concerns about safety have made recruiting new referees difficult, and those interviewed said the problem has become worse in recent years thanks, in part, to social media and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the referees said that while the extra money is nice, it's difficult to do the job unless you love sports and working with kids. Long Island referees have ejected nearly 400 players, coaches and spectators at public school events this school year.

“Fan behavior and negative behavior in general is the number one reason sports officials are quitting or not coming back or not entering in the first place,” said Bill Topp, the president of the National Association of Sports Officials.

Topp said the decline began long before COVID, but said, “[COVID] just pushed it over the cliff.”

Richter, who has officiated six sports for more than 14 years, agrees the problem is getting worse. She said spectators act as if they are entitled to say and do whatever they want.

“Believe me,” Richter said, “sometimes I go home and I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”

Lamont Anderson, 58, who has officiated seven sports over the past 15 years, said referees are trained to ignore the comments, but it isn't easy.

“I’ve heard some of the worst of the worst comments at games,” said Anderson, who is Black. “And it gets personal. There have been racial slurs, and that's totally uncalled for. I've had people get up in my face. But we're trained to turn the other cheek and walk away. You can’t have thin skin and do this — it would never work.”

A Newsday analysis of statistics from Nassau and Suffolk counties shows there has been a drop in the number of officials since 2018-19, and an even more significant decline since 2011-12. Each county publishes a list of officials each year. Suffolk lists referees who officiate one sport only once, while Nassau lists referees who officiate multiple sports multiple times. For example, a Nassau referee who officiates both basketball and football would be listed twice — once under each sport.

In 2011-12, Nassau listed 2,403 officials. That number dropped to 2,100 for the 2018-19 school year, or an average of 43 per year over seven years. For this year, Nassau listed 1,798 officials, 302 fewer than it had six years ago and a drop of 50 per year.

Suffolk had 1,301 officials in 2011-12 and fell to 1,127 in 2018-19, an average loss of about 25 officials a year over the seven-year span. This year Suffolk lists 1,065 officials, a drop of 62 and an average of about 10 a year for six years.

"The officials are taking more abuse than ever," Floyd football coach Paul Longo said. "It starts on the sideline and extends into the stands. And people are abusing officials in Little Leagues and through college."

Topp said verbal abuse in youth sports can be harder to police.

“High school has an infrastructure to take care of problems, with athletic directors, principals, superintendents getting involved as necessary," Topp said. "You don't often have that with a lot of the youth [sports] where it’s sort of every person for themselves, if you will. There is not necessarily an infrastructure to take care of bad behavior at that level.”

The New York State Public High School Sports Athletic Association requires each section to track when players, coaches and spectators are ejected from games. Anyone ejected from a game must serve a mandatory one-game suspension, including fans. Players can get ejected for a variety of reasons, including rough play. In soccer, for example, a red card can be issued for an overly aggressive tackle and results in an automatic ejection.

When coaches and spectators are ejected, it is because of bad behavior, most often toward the officials.

There have been 218 ejections in Suffolk (Section XI) and 171 in Nassau (Section VIII) as of June 1, according to records kept by the two counties.

In Suffolk, 161 athletes, 26 coaches and 31 spectators have been ejected. For Nassau, it’s 132 athletes, 23 coaches and 16 spectators.

Brocking, 69, said wrestling officials need to respond quickly and remove disruptive fans.

“Wrestling spectators are right on top of the matches,” Brocking said. “You can hear everything they say. And you can’t be thin-skinned because some things that are said are way over the top, but you also don’t have to take it. You don’t have to put up with the nonsense and you can clear the gym. I’ve cleared an entire section for being abusive."

Anderson said he once had to clear the gym at a youth basketball game.

“Two parents were going at it, the coach was screaming, I blew the whistle, called a timeout,” Anderson said. “I told the person in charge of the gym that everybody had to go. No spectators were allowed and they all waited outside until the game was over.”

The decline in the number of referees figures to continue because as the older referees retire, there is a lack of younger officials to take their place.

The National Association of Sports Officials, a nonprofit based in Racine, Wisconsin, conducted a 2023 survey of 36,000 sports officials that showed the average age of sports officials across the country is 57 (up from 53 in the 2017 survey).

The average starting age for a sports official is 40 to 45, according to the survey. Thirty years ago, the average starting age was 20 to 25.

Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII, the governing body of scholastic sports in Nassau County, said the verbal abuse makes it difficult to attract new officials.

“We're way down recruiting-wise,” Pizzarelli said. “If a young person comes on board, and now all of a sudden they’re getting yelled at, they go, ‘Why do I need this?’ "

Topp said nearly 80% of new referees quit in the first two years, and the challenge is trying to convince young people it’s a rewarding and worthwhile job.

“If we can get them into officiating and we can keep them past that second year, the magic number for us is getting them into that third year,” Topp said. “If we get them into that third year, we tend to keep them.”

Justin Wheeler, a 24-year-old from Mastic, started umpiring youth league baseball six years ago.

“Sometimes I don’t get as much respect as experienced umpires because of my age,” he said. “Some coaches and parents feel they can talk down to younger officials and take advantage of us. They say things like, ‘I’ve been around the game longer than you’re alive.' I felt that more when I first started. It gets easier."

Richter said she tries to get more women interested in becoming officials and recently told an athlete to consider giving it a try after her playing career is over.

“She's like, ‘You have to be kidding. I don't want to be yelled at the way my coach yells at you,’ “ Richter said.

“That's a big problem.”

Most of the referees interviewed said the extra money is nice but that they continued to officiate games because they love being around sports and helping kids. 

“I umpire for a few reasons,” said Wheeler, who also teaches music. “I have a love for the game. I want to give back to the game. I know there is a shortage of officials. It’s a great summer job and good pay. And I have a flexible schedule — so if I need time off, I can have it.”

Referees are paid based on the sport and the level of competition. In baseball, for example, an umpire makes $97 in Nassau for a middle school game (50 cents more in Suffolk), $114 for a junior varsity game and $133 for a varsity game ($1 more in Suffolk). Wrestling officials are the highest paid at the varsity level, at $145 in Nassau ($142 in Suffolk), while fencing is the lowest, at $116 in both counties.

John Piropato, 60, has been an official for 35 years and continues to officiate boys basketball after retiring as the athletic director at Massapequa High School in 2021.

"I love it," Piropato said. "It was never for the money, but the pay is outstanding, the best in the country."

Suffolk officials agreed to a new three-year contract before the school year that called for incremental raises of $3 per game in the first year and $5 per game in the second and third years for all sports. The approximate cost to the county is $3.6 million, according to Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, the county's governing body of scholastic sports.

Getting started as a referee costs about $250, which includes getting certified, association fees, fingerprinting from the state and buying uniforms. Potential officials must take a course and pass a test to become certified.

Social media has turned up the level of negative discourse around scholastic sports. It's become easier for parents to shoot video with their phones and post it online. If they catch a bad call on video, they share it online and use it as a forum to criticize the official.

“Everybody posts everything,” said baseball umpire Rich Lionetti, 57. “And they're not focusing on their kid getting the double. It's how their kid was wronged on a play at the plate.”

Topp, who has been involved with NASO for 33 years and took over as president last July, said that even at the youth level parents are posting “horrible” things about officials, some who may be 17 years old.

“It's just unacceptable,” Topp said. “I've loved sports my whole life, but in some measure, it's out of control.”

Umpire Chris Huss, 68, said opponents are challenging each other on social media before games, and that creates problems.

“Social media creates a whole different level of animosity that could make things dangerous,” Huss said. “Some of the stuff is going on before the game. The verbal abuse is personal.”

The shortage is creating scheduling issues at all levels of scholastic sports on Long Island. Some middle school and junior varsity games are being played without any officials.

“If this keeps up there will be no more high school sports. It’s trending in that direction,” Pizzarelli said. “Look at our middle schools — they cannot get officials. Look at our junior varsity programs — they have no officials.”

Richter said she officiated a middle school girls lacrosse game earlier this spring and neither team had played a game with an official.

“It was both teams’ fourth game,” Richter said. “It was the first time they had an official at the game.”

The shortage in football is forcing administrators to spread out the start times of games so available referees can cover as many as possible in one weekend.

“We were already told that there’s going to be weekends [in the fall] that we’re going to do an 11 o’clock game, and then a 3 o’clock game [in one day],” Miller said.

Richter said she and her officiating partner were confronted by an irate spectator in the parking lot after a girls soccer game this fall.

“I was like, ‘Ma'am, you need to leave.’ 'No, I don't.’ I said, ‘Ma'am, you need to stop talking. This is not the time.’ She continued saying, ‘No, I can say whatever I want whenever I want to whoever I want.’ "

Richter told the woman she would report her to Section XI.

“She didn't care,” Richter said.

The National Association of Sports Officials survey showed that nearly 51% of male officials and 53% of female officials have felt unsafe or feared for their safety while officiating.

“I had a horrible experience last year at a [youth] game,” Wheeler said. “The parents swarmed around me after the game and refused to let me get to my car. When I was walking off the field, one dad got in my face and started shouting at me. It was very uncomfortable. I felt like I was going to have to defend myself at any moment."

John Dee is the head of athletic supervision at Longwood High School and the owner of Athletic Event Management Service Inc., a private company that both Section XI and Section VIII contract for postseason games.

Dee has been working security at Long Island high school sports for more than 20 years and said fan behavior has "absolutely" become worse since he started. Dee said his security teams have a strict policy that includes escorting officials on and off the field.

Districts are responsible for providing security personnel at school events. For a regular-season football game at Longwood, Dee said about 10 security guards are on hand. If it is a rivalry game, that number could rise to 15. For a neutral-site Long Island Championship game, 15 to 18 security guards could be working. Events with smaller crowds, such as JV games, will often have one security supervisor.

Dee said each district is responsible for hiring security, and the pay ranges from $35 to $47 per hour.

The problem of spectator abuse has reached the legislative level. A bill was introduced in the New York State Legislature in January that would create the crime of aggravated harassment of a sports official, a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail along with a fine, community service and an order of protection. The bill hasn’t moved further since.

 The bill was also introduced in January 2023, and didn’t progress from committee. It is sponsored by Assemb. William Conrad (R-Tonawanda) and Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma). Under Albany’s rules, bills sponsored by Republicans in the Democrat-led legislature usually need Democrat co-sponsors to advance.

Administrators and referees said that change starts with the coaches and parents.

"Coaches need to act professionally, and their players will follow their lead," Anderson said. "It also keeps the spectators in line."

Topp said some parents are spending thousands of dollars on their kids' sports and expect to see the results on the field.

"Stop putting so much pressure on these kids to perform," Topp said. "And when these parents put pressure on these kids to perform, it causes them to act out too."

Officials acknowledge they sometimes make mistakes, but they say a questionable call doesn't give players, coaches or spectators the right to be abusive or demeaning.

"I know fans don't agree with every call. How could they? I’m not perfect," Huss said. "What's happening, though, is even after the play is over, it’s not over. They have to carry on and keep on going until they get a reaction."

Pizzarelli said parents take their children's sports too seriously and need to let their kids play and have fun.

"This is high school sports," Pizzarelli said. "It's not the end of the world. Our student-athletes are learning something about life when they play sports. The fans need to understand that also."

With Michael Gormley

High school football official Bob Miller says angry spectators have followed referees into the locker room and to their cars after games.

Wrestling official Sean Brocking has ejected entire sections of spectators from events because of verbal abuse.

Multisport official Patty Richter writes down the license plate numbers of fans who act in an abusive or threatening way in case she needs to report them to the police.

The number of umpires, referees and officials is declining on Long Island and nationwide, a decrease blamed on the onslaught of verbal abuse from parents, spectators, players and coaches, according to Newsday interviews with more than two dozen sports officials, school administrators and high school coaches. Statistics from Nassau and Suffolk counties show there has been a sharp drop in the number of people willing to officiate since 2011-12. According to lists published by each county, Nassau has seen a 25% drop in the number of referees since the 2011-12 school year, while Suffolk has experienced an 18% decline.

The verbal abuse and concerns about safety have made recruiting new referees difficult, and those interviewed said the problem has become worse in recent years thanks, in part, to social media and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the referees said that while the extra money is nice, it's difficult to do the job unless you love sports and working with kids. Long Island referees have ejected nearly 400 players, coaches and spectators at public school events this school year.

“Fan behavior and negative behavior in general is the number one reason sports officials are quitting or not coming back or not entering in the first place,” said Bill Topp, the president of the National Association of Sports Officials.

Topp said the decline began long before COVID, but said, “[COVID] just pushed it over the cliff.”

Richter, who has officiated six sports for more than 14 years, agrees the problem is getting worse. She said spectators act as if they are entitled to say and do whatever they want.

“Believe me,” Richter said, “sometimes I go home and I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”

Lamont Anderson, 58, who has officiated seven sports over the past 15 years, said referees are trained to ignore the comments, but it isn't easy.

“I’ve heard some of the worst of the worst comments at games,” said Anderson, who is Black. “And it gets personal. There have been racial slurs, and that's totally uncalled for. I've had people get up in my face. But we're trained to turn the other cheek and walk away. You can’t have thin skin and do this — it would never work.”

Listen to a sampling of what spectators yell out to referees and umpires.

On Long Island

A Newsday analysis of statistics from Nassau and Suffolk counties shows there has been a drop in the number of officials since 2018-19, and an even more significant decline since 2011-12. Each county publishes a list of officials each year. Suffolk lists referees who officiate one sport only once, while Nassau lists referees who officiate multiple sports multiple times. For example, a Nassau referee who officiates both basketball and football would be listed twice — once under each sport.

In 2011-12, Nassau listed 2,403 officials. That number dropped to 2,100 for the 2018-19 school year, or an average of 43 per year over seven years. For this year, Nassau listed 1,798 officials, 302 fewer than it had six years ago and a drop of 50 per year.

Suffolk had 1,301 officials in 2011-12 and fell to 1,127 in 2018-19, an average loss of about 25 officials a year over the seven-year span. This year Suffolk lists 1,065 officials, a drop of 62 and an average of about 10 a year for six years.

"The officials are taking more abuse than ever," Floyd football coach Paul Longo said. "It starts on the sideline and extends into the stands. And people are abusing officials in Little Leagues and through college."

Topp said verbal abuse in youth sports can be harder to police.

“High school has an infrastructure to take care of problems, with athletic directors, principals, superintendents getting involved as necessary," Topp said. "You don't often have that with a lot of the youth [sports] where it’s sort of every person for themselves, if you will. There is not necessarily an infrastructure to take care of bad behavior at that level.”

Ejections

The New York State Public High School Sports Athletic Association requires each section to track when players, coaches and spectators are ejected from games. Anyone ejected from a game must serve a mandatory one-game suspension, including fans. Players can get ejected for a variety of reasons, including rough play. In soccer, for example, a red card can be issued for an overly aggressive tackle and results in an automatic ejection.

When coaches and spectators are ejected, it is because of bad behavior, most often toward the officials.

There have been 218 ejections in Suffolk (Section XI) and 171 in Nassau (Section VIII) as of June 1, according to records kept by the two counties.

In Suffolk, 161 athletes, 26 coaches and 31 spectators have been ejected. For Nassau, it’s 132 athletes, 23 coaches and 16 spectators.

Brocking, 69, said wrestling officials need to respond quickly and remove disruptive fans.

“Wrestling spectators are right on top of the matches,” Brocking said. “You can hear everything they say. And you can’t be thin-skinned because some things that are said are way over the top, but you also don’t have to take it. You don’t have to put up with the nonsense and you can clear the gym. I’ve cleared an entire section for being abusive."

Anderson said he once had to clear the gym at a youth basketball game.

“Two parents were going at it, the coach was screaming, I blew the whistle, called a timeout,” Anderson said. “I told the person in charge of the gym that everybody had to go. No spectators were allowed and they all waited outside until the game was over.”

Recruiting challenges

The decline in the number of referees figures to continue because as the older referees retire, there is a lack of younger officials to take their place.

The National Association of Sports Officials, a nonprofit based in Racine, Wisconsin, conducted a 2023 survey of 36,000 sports officials that showed the average age of sports officials across the country is 57 (up from 53 in the 2017 survey).

The average starting age for a sports official is 40 to 45, according to the survey. Thirty years ago, the average starting age was 20 to 25.

Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII, the governing body of scholastic sports in Nassau County, said the verbal abuse makes it difficult to attract new officials.

“We're way down recruiting-wise,” Pizzarelli said. “If a young person comes on board, and now all of a sudden they’re getting yelled at, they go, ‘Why do I need this?’ "

Topp said nearly 80% of new referees quit in the first two years, and the challenge is trying to convince young people it’s a rewarding and worthwhile job.

“If we can get them into officiating and we can keep them past that second year, the magic number for us is getting them into that third year,” Topp said. “If we get them into that third year, we tend to keep them.”

Justin Wheeler umpires a Little League game in Manorville on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Justin Wheeler, a 24-year-old from Mastic, started umpiring youth league baseball six years ago.

“Sometimes I don’t get as much respect as experienced umpires because of my age,” he said. “Some coaches and parents feel they can talk down to younger officials and take advantage of us. They say things like, ‘I’ve been around the game longer than you’re alive.' I felt that more when I first started. It gets easier."

Richter said she tries to get more women interested in becoming officials and recently told an athlete to consider giving it a try after her playing career is over.

“She's like, ‘You have to be kidding. I don't want to be yelled at the way my coach yells at you,’ “ Richter said.

“That's a big problem.”

Is it worth it?

Most of the referees interviewed said the extra money is nice but that they continued to officiate games because they love being around sports and helping kids. 

“I umpire for a few reasons,” said Wheeler, who also teaches music. “I have a love for the game. I want to give back to the game. I know there is a shortage of officials. It’s a great summer job and good pay. And I have a flexible schedule — so if I need time off, I can have it.”

Referees are paid based on the sport and the level of competition. In baseball, for example, an umpire makes $97 in Nassau for a middle school game (50 cents more in Suffolk), $114 for a junior varsity game and $133 for a varsity game ($1 more in Suffolk). Wrestling officials are the highest paid at the varsity level, at $145 in Nassau ($142 in Suffolk), while fencing is the lowest, at $116 in both counties.

John Piropato, 60, has been an official for 35 years and continues to officiate boys basketball after retiring as the athletic director at Massapequa High School in 2021.

"I love it," Piropato said. "It was never for the money, but the pay is outstanding, the best in the country."

Suffolk officials agreed to a new three-year contract before the school year that called for incremental raises of $3 per game in the first year and $5 per game in the second and third years for all sports. The approximate cost to the county is $3.6 million, according to Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, the county's governing body of scholastic sports.

Getting started as a referee costs about $250, which includes getting certified, association fees, fingerprinting from the state and buying uniforms. Potential officials must take a course and pass a test to become certified.

Role of social media

Social media has turned up the level of negative discourse around scholastic sports. It's become easier for parents to shoot video with their phones and post it online. If they catch a bad call on video, they share it online and use it as a forum to criticize the official.

“Everybody posts everything,” said baseball umpire Rich Lionetti, 57. “And they're not focusing on their kid getting the double. It's how their kid was wronged on a play at the plate.”

Topp, who has been involved with NASO for 33 years and took over as president last July, said that even at the youth level parents are posting “horrible” things about officials, some who may be 17 years old.

“It's just unacceptable,” Topp said. “I've loved sports my whole life, but in some measure, it's out of control.”

Umpire Chris Huss, 68, said opponents are challenging each other on social media before games, and that creates problems.

“Social media creates a whole different level of animosity that could make things dangerous,” Huss said. “Some of the stuff is going on before the game. The verbal abuse is personal.”

Scheduling problems

The shortage is creating scheduling issues at all levels of scholastic sports on Long Island. Some middle school and junior varsity games are being played without any officials.

“If this keeps up there will be no more high school sports. It’s trending in that direction,” Pizzarelli said. “Look at our middle schools — they cannot get officials. Look at our junior varsity programs — they have no officials.”

Richter said she officiated a middle school girls lacrosse game earlier this spring and neither team had played a game with an official.

“It was both teams’ fourth game,” Richter said. “It was the first time they had an official at the game.”

The shortage in football is forcing administrators to spread out the start times of games so available referees can cover as many as possible in one weekend.

“We were already told that there’s going to be weekends [in the fall] that we’re going to do an 11 o’clock game, and then a 3 o’clock game [in one day],” Miller said.

Fearing for their safety

Patty Richter has refereed multiple sports in Suffolk for more than...

Patty Richter has refereed multiple sports in Suffolk for more than a decade. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Richter said she and her officiating partner were confronted by an irate spectator in the parking lot after a girls soccer game this fall.

“I was like, ‘Ma'am, you need to leave.’ 'No, I don't.’ I said, ‘Ma'am, you need to stop talking. This is not the time.’ She continued saying, ‘No, I can say whatever I want whenever I want to whoever I want.’ "

Richter told the woman she would report her to Section XI.

“She didn't care,” Richter said.

The National Association of Sports Officials survey showed that nearly 51% of male officials and 53% of female officials have felt unsafe or feared for their safety while officiating.

“I had a horrible experience last year at a [youth] game,” Wheeler said. “The parents swarmed around me after the game and refused to let me get to my car. When I was walking off the field, one dad got in my face and started shouting at me. It was very uncomfortable. I felt like I was going to have to defend myself at any moment."

John Dee is the head of athletic supervision at Longwood High School and the owner of Athletic Event Management Service Inc., a private company that both Section XI and Section VIII contract for postseason games.

Dee has been working security at Long Island high school sports for more than 20 years and said fan behavior has "absolutely" become worse since he started. Dee said his security teams have a strict policy that includes escorting officials on and off the field.

Districts are responsible for providing security personnel at school events. For a regular-season football game at Longwood, Dee said about 10 security guards are on hand. If it is a rivalry game, that number could rise to 15. For a neutral-site Long Island Championship game, 15 to 18 security guards could be working. Events with smaller crowds, such as JV games, will often have one security supervisor.

Dee said each district is responsible for hiring security, and the pay ranges from $35 to $47 per hour.

The problem of spectator abuse has reached the legislative level. A bill was introduced in the New York State Legislature in January that would create the crime of aggravated harassment of a sports official, a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail along with a fine, community service and an order of protection. The bill hasn’t moved further since.

 The bill was also introduced in January 2023, and didn’t progress from committee. It is sponsored by Assemb. William Conrad (R-Tonawanda) and Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma). Under Albany’s rules, bills sponsored by Republicans in the Democrat-led legislature usually need Democrat co-sponsors to advance.

Is there a solution?

Administrators and referees said that change starts with the coaches and parents.

Lamont Anderson, center, prepares to umpire a game at Cantiague Park in Hicksville on Wednesday. Credit: Jeff Bachner

"Coaches need to act professionally, and their players will follow their lead," Anderson said. "It also keeps the spectators in line."

Topp said some parents are spending thousands of dollars on their kids' sports and expect to see the results on the field.

"Stop putting so much pressure on these kids to perform," Topp said. "And when these parents put pressure on these kids to perform, it causes them to act out too."

Officials acknowledge they sometimes make mistakes, but they say a questionable call doesn't give players, coaches or spectators the right to be abusive or demeaning.

"I know fans don't agree with every call. How could they? I’m not perfect," Huss said. "What's happening, though, is even after the play is over, it’s not over. They have to carry on and keep on going until they get a reaction."

Pizzarelli said parents take their children's sports too seriously and need to let their kids play and have fun.

"This is high school sports," Pizzarelli said. "It's not the end of the world. Our student-athletes are learning something about life when they play sports. The fans need to understand that also."

With Michael Gormley

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