Respect for the Game
In recent years WSC has redoubled it's efforts to promotes the crucial idea of respect across the game. Respect for opposing players, coaches and officials, referees, opposing supporters - and the essential values of football as a sport open to all.
Sporting Behavior (Fair Play)
To make sure that our standards for fair play and respect our met, we are asking our members to let us know when they are witness to either positive or negative displays of conduct, such that we can promote and/or address situations appropriately. We feel this is important enough that we have a designated Sportsmanship Director to ensure we conduct ourselves with the highest degree of respect.
One of the areas where we see a lot of issues is conduct towards referees. Here is some perspective from our Sportsmanship Director:
Respect Our Referees
First and foremost in your role as an adult involved with youth athletes you should recognize that you are teaching your players about every aspect of the game. In my view you should model your behavior towards game officials as one of sincere respect for the great sport you are playing and teaching others to play. You love soccer right? Imagine it WITHOUT officials and I hope you will realize that we all need to work to appreciate their efforts.
If you model irresponsible behavior towards game officials, however unwittingly, you players will follow. The consequences of such behavior for you are limited to embarrassment and perhaps expulsion from games if the match officials decide you are behaving irresponsibly, but for your players they are much more far-reaching.
In the context of their day-to-day soccer experience they will lose focus on their game as they start to follow your questioning of the referee's calls. Slowly but surely they will become demoralized as the idea that officials unfairly influence the outcomes of games becomes ever more firmly seated in their minds. As they become young adults they will start to verbally question official's calls and this will lead to cautions for dissent and then send-offs for foul and abusive language.
In the context of influencing the athlete's outlook towards authority, and their basic understanding of dealing with conflict, irresponsible behavior towards match officials lays the groundwork for a lifetime of frustration. Players see you question officials and they question their teachers, they see you bullying officials and they figure they'll carry some of that behavior into recess. They see you blaming others for failure and pretty soon we're all joining the tea-party movement!!
In the context of the USSF Referees Program and in our case, its local body, the Seattle Soccer Referees Association (SSRA), such behavior completely undermines their efforts to grow a body of experienced and knowledgeable match officials. To reach the top levels of officiating is very hard to do and requires that we start educating and mentoring referees from an early age. A frighteningly large percentage of referees (of all ages, but particularly younger referees) quit after a couple of seasons because of the abuse they suffer. This damage to the greater goal is rarely appreciated by youth soccer coaches until they show up for a really important game and there is only one official instead of three. Then of course the blame game starts all over again.
Turning the Tide
Why is it so hard to 'be at one' with match officials?
My personal view is that it's because we have been raised without appreciation of what a match official really does. We've grown up in the sports culture that we have and we are quite happy yelling our head off every time the 'idiot in the middle' aka the 'Referee' makes a decision that is to the detriment of our team. You may or may not know the Laws of the Game but you are convinced that you know them better than the officials and you may or may not wear glasses but your eyesight is 10X better than the officials. You regularly leave a sporting event convinced that the referee robbed your team or chuckling that such a disastrous performance by the officials handed the game to your team.
I know this because it describes the way I grew up! Almost as soon as I started going to watch Sheffield United play in England in the '70s I was joining in the chants directed at the referee. Heck, I watched Maradonna score with the "Hand of God' and almost marched in the streets about it!! It is only through exposure to the USSF Referees Program and frankly, being yelled at all too frequently as a match official, that I have managed to shift my attitude and would love to have a general shift in attitude towards Youth Soccer Officials occur from within SYSA.
I realized that I never even thought abusing officials - and make no mistake, this is what yelling at them is, actually had any consequences. Then I found myself on Game Day 1 with my U10 team. Out walks a very nervous 13 year-old attired in what is clearly a brand new referee's uniform and very hesitantly asks me for my team roster. I think to myself 'can this kid really know the rules? will he protect my players? maybe I can 'help' her?' and all manner of other thoughts. But basically I'm anxious, you don't want all your hard work wasted because the referee makes a mistake right? The game kicks-off (did anyone actually hear that rather timid tweet of the whistle) and the very first time the ball goes out of play the referee signals for a goal-kick when everyone else saw it as a corner-kick. I'm naturally disappointed as are your players and before I can stop myself I yell that classic phrase that all referees love so much 'Ref are you kidding me?!!'
AAAARGH!!!! What was I thinking? It makes me cringe to relay this story but it is repeated time and time again throughout our youth soccer community and so what I am going to ask you to do, and this can be very, very hard to do, is to imagine every game official (yes, even old farts like myself!) is YOUR kid and ask yourself 'would I want some random adult yelling at my kid?" The answer is surely 'no' so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASEstop yourself from doing this on Day 1 because the longer you do it the harder it will be to stop.
As a referee I can assure you that such behavior DESTROYS the chances of everyone enjoying the game. Players lose focus, the referee is liable to lose concentration and make a mistake that actually does influence the outcome and you will only increase your chances of premature stomach ulcers! Any referee may make mistakes during a game but I can assure you that this is part of the game and you better get used to it and more importantly, coach your players to do no more than listen to the whistle and respect each and everyone of the referee's decisions.
The Seattle Soccer Referees Association (SSRA) frequently runs entry-level clinics and if you have the time, become a referee. It has been a revelation to me to learn the Laws of the Game and of equal importance, the constant effort that the USSF Referees Program makes to improve the way in which match officials apply these Laws. Everyone involved in this effort is working to a single goal - to make the players' (and at higher levels, the spectators') enjoyment of the game itself the prime focus and ensure that the game is played in a safe and fair manner. It's as simple as that and as coaches I would ask you to ponder if that is not fundamentally what we are all trying to achieve?
10 tips for coaches when interacting with match officials
Appreciate that they wish to maximize everyone's enjoyment by ensuring that the game is played in a safe and fair manner. I have yet to meet a soccer referee who does not love the game.
Do the simple things you can to help them in the pre-game formalities - be polite, have your roster prepared, make sure players are wearing absolutely NO jewelry, if you use player cards order them to match the roster, have your game balls ready.
After the match begins, understand that a referee continually uses many inputs to gauge the 'temperature' of the game and will make decisions about what is and what is not a trifling foul accordingly.
Understand the referee may change their mind on a decision as long as a restart has not occurred but they are only using input from their own observations and from those of their fellow match officials. Nothing you say will make any difference!
Make your substitutions in as orderly manner as possible - which can be really hard to do with young players. There is nothing worse than realizing that a team has one more player on the field than is allowed when the ball has entered the opponents goal.
Know the Laws of the Game and the modifications to those Laws that are determined by the Rules of Competition. In Mod and Recreational soccer the Laws of the Game are modified and frequently change as you move up to the next age-group.
If you have a question, and you most certainly will, before you say anything at all, ask yourself if you are questioning a decision that is related to the referee's application of the Laws of the Game. If so then his decision is final.
Accept that over the course of a season mistakes even out and you will gain as much as you lose. Every honest coach knows that this is a simple law of averages.
Judging the severity of injuries to players is a specific part of the referee's responsibilities and in youth games they are always checking players after collisions or fouls. However, if a player is hurt and the referee seems to have not noticed then I personally can tell you that this is the one time I really appreciate a loud yell!
At the end of the game, regardless of the outcome, regardless of how you feel the officiating met your expectations and regardless of your opponent's behavior, please thank the match officials graciously and have your players do the same.