Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing a referee shortage in youth sports

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Warren Graver raised the whistle to his lips midway through the second half, bracing to shift his focus from the sideline hysterics to the girls’ soccer game at hand three years ago.

And that’s when the veteran youth soccer referee saw two men walking onto the field.

It was a Sunday afternoon at an under-16 tournament in Vienna, and Graver had just ejected an invective-spewing coach. Without warning or permission, two angry parents marched across the field to take the coach’s place on the bench.

Uncertainty gripped Graver. Emotions were running high. There was no field marshal or senior official in the vicinity. It was the only time Graver can remember feeling fear as a referee.

“It could have easily escalated into something physical,” Graver said.

Following a decade as a referee, Graver returned for one more season. But he said that incident in Vienna crystallized a creeping realization: His days in the job were numbered.

“I said, ‘I would rather spend my time on the weekends with my kids and with my wife than stand out here and be abused by these parents,’ ” said Graver, who kept good to his word and hasn’t been a referee in the past two years. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Graver’s experience — or something similar — plays out every weekend across the country.

Administrators contend that escalating verbal abuse is partially to blame for a dwindling referee pool in youth and high school sports. The fallout is crippling officiating bodies mired in a deeply cutthroat sports culture, one that often holds amateur referees to a professional standard. Continue reading Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing a referee shortage in youth sports

John Wall makes ailing young Wizards fan’s wish come true

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Niyear Perez couldn’t stop smiling. Not only was John Wall’s name gracing the back of the 13-year-old’s brand-new Wizards jersey, his NBA idol was literally at his back, signing that jersey and chatting with the young visitor as part of the Make-a-Wish Mid-Atlantic event before Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic at Verizon Center.

Niyear had a chronic kidney disease diagnosed in October 2015 and spent the following two months in the intensive care unit at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. He has been in and out of the hospital since then and currently is on a list to receive a renal transplant. While he waits for a new kidney, he endures three-hour dialysis sessions three times per week.

But as Niyear scampered through the player tunnel during Sunday’s starting-lineup introductions, Wizards fans simply saw a normal-looking kid with an extraordinary opportunity.

“He’s going to do anything he has to to be out there with them,” said his grandmother, Virginia Robinson. Continue reading John Wall makes ailing young Wizards fan’s wish come true

Olympic champ Kyle Snyder returns to high school gym to wrestle for Ohio State

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Kyle Snyder stood in the corner of Good Counsel High’s gym Sunday afternoon and waited to reacquaint himself with the launchpad of his sparkling wrestling career. The navy-and-gold center mat looked exactly the same as he had left it in 2013, but everything that has happened since — a world championship, an NCAA title, an Olympic gold medal — rendered this an entirely different spectacle altogether.

For starters, Snyder was no longer sporting his high school’s colors. The burly 21-year-old donned a black Ohio State warmup pullover as he prepared for a home dual meet roughly 405 miles off campus. The unusual showdown — held just 15 miles from College Park — was the result of a recruiting pitch from Ohio State Coach Tom Ryan, who promised Snyder a home meet at his old high school at some point before he graduated.

Snyder, a junior, paced the warmup mat, but he wasn’t getting loose for his upcoming heavyweight bout just yet. Instead, he was signing hats and T-shirts for giddy children as parents leaned back to take pictures. A sold-out crowd of 1,200 spectators filled the bleachers on either side.

“It’s nuts,” Snyder mumbled as he scrawled his name across another hat’s bill. Continue reading Olympic champ Kyle Snyder returns to high school gym to wrestle for Ohio State

Freshman Mamadi Diakite, No. 8 Virginia take care of Yale, 62-38

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Yale center Sam Downey thought he was about to end the drought. With his team’s deficit ballooning into double digits, Downey rose for a routine layup that would have registered the Bulldogs’ first points in a five-minute span against No. 8 Virginia on Sunday afternoon.

He didn’t see Mamadi Diakite flying across the baseline. Virginia’s spring-loaded freshman soared above the rim to pin Downey’s attempt against the glass and keep Yale’s scoreless misery going for another three minutes midway through the second half.

“The team needed me to step up and block more shots,” said Diakite, who finished with four blocks and five points. “That is what I did.”

The Cavaliers’ eight-minute defensive stand propelled them to a 62-38 victory before 14,242 at John Paul Jones Arena. Eight players filled the scoring column for Virginia (3-0), but it was Diakite’s defensive prowess that brought the crowd to its feet. Continue reading Freshman Mamadi Diakite, No. 8 Virginia take care of Yale, 62-38

Maryland men’s soccer keeps unbeaten streak alive in Big Ten tournament debut

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Rejuvenated from injuries and illnesses, rested from a much-needed week off, the top-ranked Maryland men’s soccer team hoped Sunday’s game against Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals would play out much differently than last week’s last-gasp struggle against the Wolverines.

It ended up being a near-replica.

Reserve midfielder George Campbell scored just under three minutes into the second sudden-death overtime period to lift Maryland to a 3-2 victory at Ludwig Field. The result extended the top-seeded Terrapins’ winning streak to 13 games and vaulted them into Friday’s semifinal against Michigan State. Continue reading Maryland men’s soccer keeps unbeaten streak alive in Big Ten tournament debut

South Lakes golfer Kurtis Grant stays crisp to capture the Virginia 6A North region crown

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Kurtis Grant surveyed the 18th fairway stretching below him Wednesday afternoon, his right leg crossed casually around his left as he sipped a 23-ounce can of Arizona-brand Arnold Palmer Lite Half & Half Iced Tea.

The South Lakes junior typically takes about 30 seconds to guzzle the drink before his round. But in homage to “The King” — and to stay better hydrated — Grant cracked open his favorite beverage at the turn of Wednesday’s Virginia 6A North region golf championship and nursed it throughout the back nine.

“I usually don’t finish very well,” Grant said. “That was different today.”

Grant carded four birdies and zero bogeys on Hidden Creek Country Club’s second half en route to a 4-under-par 67. That followed a 68 on Tuesday, giving him individual medalist honors by eight shots on the testy Reston course.

Grant’s refreshment may have helped, but the real driving force behind his seamless navigation of the narrow layout was something even more drawn out: preparation. Continue reading South Lakes golfer Kurtis Grant stays crisp to capture the Virginia 6A North region crown

Varsity field hockey has arrived in Loudoun County, but there’s still work to be done

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The novelty of the scene at Briar Woods was evident only in the players’ faces.

On one side of the field, 25 members of the Heritage field hockey team decked in candy red uniforms giggled through their warm-up shooting routine. On the other, two of Stone Bridge’s 21 white-and-navy clad stick wielders stopped to laugh at a whiff that sent dirt flying over a stationary ball.

Just about anywhere else in the Washington area, this is a totally normal Tuesday evening in September. In Loudoun County, this is unprecedented. Continue reading Varsity field hockey has arrived in Loudoun County, but there’s still work to be done