News · A Message from the IHSAA

A Postscript to “Cool It”

A few weeks ago, Dr. Karissa Niehoff of the National Federation of State High School Associations partnered with the Executive Directors/Commissioners of all 51 state associations to deliver an important message regarding sportsmanship, contest officials and adult behavior at high school athletic contests. This communication was distributed nationwide and it has resonated greatly with the public. The IHSAA has received countless positive responses to the op-ed from all corners of our state. Within those encouragements, several helpful suggestions were also forwarded. As I reflect on the conversation, I want to share some of the more insightful comments:

  • When did boorish behavior replace respectful, good-natured, competitive conduct?
  • ALL adult stakeholders need to adhere to these directives. This includes coaches, administrators and officials.
  • These are “games for kids!” Where did we lose our way?
  • Parents need to stop and enjoy these games before their kids graduate and it’s all over.
My sense is that the clear majority of Hoosiers understand the basic premise of education-based athletics, yet some are occasionally overwhelmed with hometown zeal and passion. That energy and support is always welcomed when channeled in the proper manner. I have reprinted the op-ed below as reference to our challenge.

I look forward to seeing you at our tournament series events this winter. #FaceOfSportsmanship


Bobby Cox
Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc.

Dear Mom and Dad: Cool It

By Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Bobby Cox, Commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

If you are the mother or father of a high school athlete here in Indiana, this message is primarily for you.

When you attend an athletic event that involves your son or daughter, cheer to your heart’s content, enjoy the camaraderie that high school sports offer and have fun. But when it comes to verbally criticizing game officials or coaches, cool it.

Make no mistake about it. Your passion is admired, and your support of the hometown team is needed. But so is your self-control. Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the primary reason Indiana has an alarming shortage of high school officials.

It’s true. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say “adult behavior” is the primary reason they quit. And 80 percent of all young officials hang up their stripes after just two years of whistle blowing. Why? They don’t need your abuse.

Plus, there’s a ripple effect. There are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them. If there are no officials, there are no games. The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in some areas that athletic events are being postponed or cancelled—especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels.

Research confirms that participation in high school sports and activities instills a sense of pride in school and community, teaches lifelong lessons like the value of teamwork and self-discipline and facilitates the physical and emotional development of those who participate. So, if the games go away because there aren’t enough men and women to officiate them, the loss will be infinitely greater than just an “L” on the scoreboard. It will be putting a dent in your community’s future.

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.