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The Y Launches the Green Whistle Initiative for Referees Under Age 18

Everett, WA. January 8, 2024 — YMCA of Snohomish County is proud to implement the Green Whistle Initiative, inspired by a successful program from Basketball Victoria. This program uses a green whistle as a simple identifier for referees under age 18, reminding everyone involved in our sports community to prioritize respect and appreciation for sports officials, regardless of their age.

The Y has over 1,100 youth basketball games scheduled during the next two months and referees play a vital role in making the season possible. Referees ensure fair play and foster a positive environment for players, coaches and fans.

“Unfortunately, instances of disrespect and even verbal abuse towards referees are becoming increasingly common, especially for young officials,” said Chris Bellecourt, Association Director of Youth Sports, YMCA of Snohomish County. “Over 80 percent of our referees are under age 18 and for many, it’s their first job. We want to support them as they are learning the ropes by providing a safe and encouraging environment.”

The program is designed to help young referees develop leadership and professional skills, so they are equipped with essential skills when they do face pressure during game situations or interactions with fans, coaches and players. The hope is that when someone sees a green whistle, they will pause and reflect on their own role in creating a positive game experience, instead of fixating on calls or criticizing officials.

“We rely heavily on young officials at the community level and it’s our responsibility to provide the best experience possible,” said Bellecourt. “When refs encounter disrespectful behavior, they may feel discouraged and leave their job, jeopardizing the future of officiating in youth recreational sports.”

Implementation of the Green Whistle Initiative draws attention to other ways everyone involved in sports can contribute to positive change in youth sports and teaches young athletes good sportsmanship, teamwork, and fair play.

“We are hopeful that through this program, we can create a supportive environment where young referees feel valued and encouraged,” said Bellecourt. “When we treat others with respect and kindess, everyone benefits, creating a better sporting experience for all.”

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