LOCAL NEWS

Lehi police investigating incident between coach, ref at Little League football game

Aug 29, 2022, 7:20 PM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 2:04 pm

LEHI, Utah — Swift action is being taken by the Utah County Youth Football Conference after a coach attacked a teenage referee at a youth football game over the weekend.

“We had a skirmish on the field where the coach essentially attacked a referee,” said Cole Cooper, president of the Utah County Youth Football Conference.

Video of the incident was shared on several social media outlets, including the Utah Youth Football Parents page this weekend. It shows an assistant coach from the Skyride 1st and 2nd grade team rush out onto the field after a skirmish between players.

As the 19-year-old ref steps in to break it up and is helping a player stand up, the assistant coach comes running onto the field and shoves the unsuspecting ref.

“It took me a few seconds to realize what was going on because I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Bower Anderson, who was also a ref on the same field. “It was just kind of scary, I guess.”

Anderson is a first-year youth football ref, and what happened on Saturday is something he never wants to see again.

“At the end of the day, it’s like, we’re trying to do our jobs and help out kids.”

The Utah County Youth Football Conference has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to parents and coaches misbehaving, and Saturday’s attack has now been turned over to the Lehi Police Department to investigate.

“There is no time that an official or coach or player should touch an official,” Cooper said.

Cooper said Saturday’s incident highlights a big problem happening in youth sports, which is contributing to ref shortages nationwide.

“There is a problem with parents, with coaches thinking this type of behavior is acceptable,” he said. “Parents, just because you pay a fee to play, that doesn’t mean you have a right to argue with the refs, or fight with the refs, or show up and be a nuisance.”

KSL TV reached out to Skyridge Youth Football about Saturday’s incident and received this statement:

As a representative of Skyridge Youth Football, I am saddened by events that occurred at one of our youth football games over the weekend. The behavior exhibited by our assistant coach on the field is not a true representation of our program nor is it in line with our expectations of our coaches, parents, and players. Football brings out strong emotions in even the calmest of us. We aim for passion, positive intensity, teamwork, respect, and a love of the game. The coach in question reacted to his interpretation of what was happening on the field in a dramatic and negative way. Our leadership and that of the Utah County Youth Football Conference has a zero-tolerance policy for actions and reactions like this. It is my sincere hope that we can put this incident behind us and continue to enjoy youth football.

— Kristel Lundberg, President, Skyridge Youth Football

For Anderson, he said being a ref is about the kids, and he too hopes parents and coaches will learn from this experience.

“My main job as a ref is make sure the kids are safe and make sure they’re having fun playing football,” Anderson said.

He said despite what unfolded Saturday, he plans to take the field again.

“It’s just a little set back, a little scary, but I love reffing and I’m going to keep reffing.”

The Utah County Youth Football Conference will hold a disciplinary council Monday night and provide a recommendation for action to the league committee. However, Cooper said he’s confident, as conference president, that the assistant coach from Skyridge Youth Football will not be allowed to participate in the league for the rest of the year.

“Youth football gets emotional, and it’s exciting, it’s fun — there is a lot of emotion, and trying to contain that and knowing if you can’t contain it, you just have to walk away.”

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Lehi police investigating incident between coach, ref at Little League football game