Chris Lenyszyn is truly dedicated to Folkstyle Wrestling and his passion has been repaid with multiple honors. He is proudly recognized for his contribution to High School athletics in Georgia, specifically for knowledge of the rules of the game and impartial application of these rules in the contests he officiates. For this, he has received the Officiating Triple Crown Award, acknowledging valuable contributions to three sports throughout the year – Wrestling, Girls Fast Pitch Softball and Boys Baseball. Additionally, Chris Lenyszyn has been commended for 20 Years of Service as an Athletic Official with full appreciation from the Georgia High School Association – a truly remarkable accomplishment! His devotion to athletics as a referee has spanned two decades and shown no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Chris Lenyszyn is skilled and well trained in the world of sports officiating and it was a unique opportunity to get to know him. He shared his extensive knowledge about the subject and answered interesting questions that included current trends, challenges, and what it takes for him and his fellow officials. His answers revealed his enthusiasm for the specialization and showcased a great deal of passion for helping others understand the career path of sports officials. It was clear from our conversation with Chris that he expects this field to continue to grow, making it a great area of interest for anyone looking to enter this field.
Who is most responsible for improving sportsmanship?
We ALL are responsible for improving sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship is when people who are playing or watching a sport treat each other with respect. This includes fans, parents, players, coaches, and officials. We must always remember that somebody is always watching how we react during a game and they have recorded cell phone videos to prove it. As a sports official for the Georgia High School Association, I have seen way too many people lose their cool over a judgment call because they do not know the rules. This is why there is such a huge shortage of sports officials across the nation with all sports. If we do not start improving sportsmanship soon there will be nobody left to officiate.
Who causes the most problems with sportsmanship?
According to a recent 2023 survey of more than 27,000 referees, parents and coaches cause the most problems with sportsmanship. Only about 10% of respondents cited players, but nearly 40% cited parents, and nearly 30% cited coaches. Perhaps more disturbing, these officials from youth recreational, adult amateur, and professional sports leagues believe the level of sportsmanship is worst at the youth competitive level. And nearly 60% of respondents believe that, overall, sportsmanship is getting worse.
As a fan, do you ever heckle sports officials?
No. I have respect for All sports officials, especially myself, said Chris Lenyszyn. I am there to watch, officiate and enjoy the game. Profanity, degrading remarks, and intimidating actions directed at officials, competitors, or other spectators will not be tolerated, and are grounds for removal from the event site.
Do you ever publicly criticize other sports officials?
No. It is unprofessional. I always like to say praise publicly and criticize privately. Same reason you should never do it during the game. If you delegitimize the sports official then they might as well not exist. An authority like that is meant to prevent mob rule. If the referee can be questioned then you have mob rule. Coaches and players, let alone fans, cannot be the ones to resolve disputes because everyone will overwhelmingly favor their own teams. By deferring to an authority who cannot be questioned, the dispute is resolved whether you like it or not and the game is able to continue uninterrupted. That does not mean they are always right, of course. But it is how it works.
Do you feel sports officials are treated unfairly?
Yes. Local sports officials are treated unfairly. I never realized how hard of a job it is to officiate because you must deal with not only the players but the coaches and parents as well. That is why GOD gave us two ears and one mouth. We hear everything and have only one set of eyes. We obviously cannot see or make every call. Remain calm and let us move on. Officials are human and react to the tone of the game set by the athletes, spectators, and coach. Respecting the official also helps to instill good sportsmanship in younger athletes. This tone of respect is picked up on by the parents and even fans can add a general sense of fairness and fun to the game.
Do you feel or have you observed that the abuse directed toward sports officials is getting worse?
Yes, this is a nightmare across all sports. Bad Behavior Drove a Referee Shortage. Covid Made It Worse. From 2018 to 2021, an estimated 50,000 high school referees roughly 20 percent quit. Georgia lost a quarter of its sports officials between 2018 and 2022, while the Public School Athletic League in Atlanta said it was short about 90 officials.
Is sportsmanship getting better, worse or the same?
Worse, we mostly suffer verbal abuse. A survey conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials revealed 57% of officials said they believed sportsmanship is getting worse. More than 17,000 referees from various levels and sports participated in the survey, and the results were revealed at the 2017 NASO Sports Officiating Summit in November. When it comes to the decline in sportsmanship, 39.3% of officials blamed parents and 29.5% pointed a finger at coaches.
During your most recent season, how many times did you verbally warn or eject a coach as a result of poor sportsmanship?
None this season. If the conversation/action of the appealing coach warrants, an immediate ejection can occur. Across the nation, there is continued unsporting behavior displayed. Even in our state of Georgia, the number of ejections remains at an unacceptable level annually. In my 20 years of officiating Wrestling with the Georgia High School Association, I have only had to eject two coaches for flagrant misconduct. The GHSA rule book says that I must warn a coach for questioning my judgment or for misinterpreting a misapplication of the rule so I do just that. I do not like too I have too.
When you penalize and/or eject for sportsmanship issues, do you feel supported?
No. I do not feel supported and here is why. Two years ago, I ejected a head coach for flagrant misconduct at his own school during a heated Varsity Wrestling match. The Athletic Director got involved and told the coach to apologize to me for losing his temper, verbal abuse, and his flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct. The coach apologized and later resigned from that school. Two years later that same coach is now the head wrestling coach at another high school not far from the school where he resigned. I get my assignment to officiate a wrestling tournament at the new school the coach is at and am thinking time has passed and everything is ok. The coach finds out I will be officiating at his school and tells my assigner that I am not welcome to officiate there. I understand the coach’s decision but do not feel supported. My assigner told me that we all have our share of coaches that do not like us for personal reasons and shared his list of coaches he had problems with too including this exact coach. Once the GHSA receives an email about a complaint from either party it can and will be held responsible against an official. I know many wrestling officials that do not get picked to officiate at the state wrestling tournament for this very reason with no support. So, yes penalizing and or ejecting for sportsmanship issues has negatively impacted future assignments for many sports officials.
Have you ever regretted a decision to eject or not eject a coach?
No. The decision to eject a coach must be warranted. Most coaches that get a warning know this all too well. If at any time during a match the coaches and other team personnel are hit with flagrant misconduct the following must occur. Remove from premises immediately on first offense and deduct 3 team points. Removal is for the dual meet, remainder of a multiple school event or tournament. GHSA also has fines for ejecting coaches. Policies state 1st Ejection: $250.00 fine and suspension from next two games. 2nd Ejection: $500.00 fine and suspension from next two games; and must complete the “NFHS Sportsmanship Course” online before returning. It is the coaches’ responsibility to work to eliminate (or at least minimize) situations giving rise to possible instances of inappropriate behavior. It is the official’s responsibility at sporting events, games, matches or competitions, to maintain standards of play and to ensure that game rules are observed. No sports official likes to or wants to have to decide on ejection. I have only ejected two coaches in twenty years with no regrets.
Have you ever felt unsafe or feared for your safety due to administrator / player / coach / spectator behavior?
No. Whoever commits aggravated assault upon a sports official is guilty of a third-degree felony. The penalty for an aggravated assault conviction is a prison term between one to twenty years. Also, the crime will be treated as a felony, which has grave consequences in Georgia. I have never felt unsafe personally but have heard stories from other officials who have had to face behavior issues with others at sporting events. Most officials walk back to their car together after a game or match. In today’s world you just never know. Be safe and always stay alert!
Sportsmanship is worse at what level?
Youth Recreational. Sportsmanship is worse at a youth recreational level because parents do not know the rules of the game! It amazes me how hyped up and emotional parents get from watching their kids play at sporting events. I have personally seen a mom come down from the high bleachers in a gymnasium across the soft wrestling mat in high stilettos to save her crying kid from losing. Such parental misbehavior prompted more than one in five children surveyed to say they preferred that their parents stay at home rather than watch them compete. Seriously, who can blame them? About one in seven parents also admitted to having yelled at a ref or sports official.
Do negative comments from fans bother you?
No. Not anymore. I have dealt with heckling parents, angry coaches, and mouthy kids for twenty years. I am surely not doing this job for the money rather I am doing it for the love of the game to give back. The game is different now. Some kids are not respectful, the coaches are angry and the parents are getting louder. Many sporting events go without officials because there is such a shortage across the country. When you ask a younger official why they quit he will say, “Because it wasn’t worth it anymore.” When fans in the stands feel that they are a better official than the one standing in front of them it is a problem. If a call goes against them or their team loses, it is the official’s fault for preventing them from obtaining their objectives. There was a time not so long ago when there was an ample supply of officials to go around. That is not the case today, and the task of recruiting and retaining officials is an ongoing effort. And that effort includes insisting that officials be treated with the respect they deserve.
The 3 Top Reasons You Should Consider Becoming a Sports Official.
#1 Give back to the sport that you love. The sport that has not only influenced your life but helped develop true values that taught you character and life principles we carry throughout life. #2 Setting a standard for young people, showing them that you value them by giving your time week after week as they grow in the sport. It is all about the kids performing for their coaches and parents, cheering for them whether they win or lose. #3 The average age of a Sports Official is 54 years old. We need more younger officials especially female officials to come out and step up for the love of the game. Being a Sports Official keeps you involved. It puts you right back into the action and gives you a part in the game that you will never get as a spectator. It is not the same thrill as playing, but I would say it is the next best thing to getting paid doing what you love. For a side hustle becoming a Sports Official is as rewarding an avocation as you will find.