At what point does a grown man think aggressively yelling at an unknown young girl, and publicly questioning her judgment becomes acceptable?
Out of context, I'm sure most people could agree anyone behaving this way would come across as a complete idiot. The words intimidating bully spring to mind.
However, when it comes to sports it seems all common sense goes out the window. It's a behaviour that can go unnoticed because people can become oblivious to something deemed so "normal" in a sports environment.
It's behaviour I've witnessed in recent weeks, on more than one occasion - even at junior level competition.
While watching a team of 9 and 10-year-olds I came across two coaches, in separate games calling out referees for calls they disagreed with. On the surface, that doesn't sound too extreme but both of these grown men were aggressive, with one seemingly spending more time standing on the sideline yelling at the two young referees and looking around him for support (which he didn't get from me) than actually boosting his team.
These young refs, teenage girls who looked no older than 14, were visibly affected by this man, becoming less confident as the game - and the coach's aggression - progressed. They seemed more hesitant in their calls.
It's bizarre that society has made these people comfortable enough to act this way.
The budding athletes seemed oblivious to any questionable call made by their developing referees, but I'm sure they were aware of their coaches' lack of respect for the people players are meant to look up to, to ensure they are following the rules of the game.
As a supporter of any sport and team you want to be confident that those in charge of the game are paying attention to everything happening. You want to be confident the right calls are made and at the end of the game, have no doubt the winning team won for the right reason. I get it.
What I don't get is the disrespect - especially around young athletes and towards developing referees we should be nurturing.
These kids could be the sports stars of the future and having their coach - the sport mentor they look to for guidance - show such disrespect to an official of the game is potentially moulding them into having the same moronic attitudes. I know I'd be happier seeing more modern-day Roger Federers in sport (not the teenage version) and less John McEnroes in the future.
It is also vital to understand that referees, much like athletes who don't get it right the first time, need time to develop their craft, to get their job right. You wouldn't be aggressive to a child starting out in a sport so why is it okay to verbally attack a referee who (often volunteering their time might I add) is just starting out? Referees have to learn somewhere and junior competition seems the perfect place for them.
If referees are attacked from the beginning, that will surely diminish their confidence and desire to continue - and how will that impact the future of elite sport?
I'm all for a coach to approach their refs. Question a call if you feel so strongly about it, but do it respectfully.
No matter the circumstances around intimidating behaviour, the act itself remains the same. Be a stimulant in sport development, not the detriment.