LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Stop harassing sports officials.
That's the message the Kentucky High School Athletic Association is trying to get out as the school year starts back up.
Butch Cope is the associate commissioner for the KHSAA. He says more and more fans, coaches and players are shouting at officials.
"They're not paid professionals," Cope said. "They're people who probably got off work at 3 p.m. and drove like crazy to get to the place."
One of those people is John Jury. He's been an official for 16 years and is currently the president-elect for the Kentucky Basketball Officiating Association.
"Pays for my golf in the summer," Jury said.
Getting yelled at is part of the job.
"Oh yeah, it's every game," Jury said. "We never call a perfect game."
While many refs leave because of age or injury, the new ones being recruited as replacements often don't want to put up with it.
In a recent nationwide survey, 40% of officials said they feel unsafe or uncomfortable at games.
"We've had incidences where we've had people follow officials to the dressing room," Cope said. "We've had to call the police."
The number of officials is steady overall, but has dipped in some parts of the state and nationwide. The shouting and harassing is at least one factor.
Middle and elementary school levels are the real problem.
"The younger the kids are, the worse the decorum becomes," Jury said.
"Fans have been banned from a game," Cope said.
New officials start at the those lower levels so it's beginning to hurt recruiting.
"Are we at a point where we seriously have to have a security guard at a middle school softball game?" Cope asked.
His advice: before saying something stupid, take a timeout.
"Count to three," he said. "That's what we tell our officials. Count to three. 1-2-3 and then maybe react."