Things I’ve learned from refereeing this weekend at a regional tournament (and some things I already knew but just wanted to state them anyway):
- The phrase most used by parents is “Just let them play.”
* When the referees do “let them play”, this is changed to “Where’s the yellow card?”
- Certain clubs’ coaches have made a name for themselves within the referee community – for better or for worse.
* Word gets around quickly if a coach is riding a ref all game.
* Continuing to ride a ref about a specific type of call (ie. “kicking his ankles”, “push in the back”, etc.) will usually result in the ref making that next call in an unfavourable position AGAINST that coach’s team.
* When the referee tells the coach that he’s heard enough from him and that the coach should walk back to his bench, the coach should take the hint that he’s found the line marked DO NOT CROSS.
- Compared to other club parents, parents of AYSO teams are generally friendlier/nicer, more knowledgeable of the Laws of the Game, and more supportive of their players – that is to say, when they cheer, they cheer positively, (ie. “Good run!”, “Great pass!”, “Good defense!”) not negatively (“Get rid of it sooner!”, “Stop playing with the ball!”, “Don’t ball-watch!”).
* Underestimating an AYSO team is perilous. I watched and/or reffed 4 games where the AYSO team either won handily or pulled out a comeback win over an established club team. One parent actually asked “how many days a week does this team practice” and the bewilderment on his face when the AYSO coach answered “two” was priceless. I believe that parent’s club coach was about to get an earful later.
- U14 boys have no control over their bodies (ie. they haven’t yet gained the skillset to bump/charge without sending their opponents flying) or their mouths.
For example (yes, this really happened in a post-game meeting):
Coach: Why did my player receive a red card?
Center Ref (CR): He received a red for his second yellow.
Coach: What were they for?
CR: The first yellow was for the dangerous play tackle, the second was for dissent – he was yelling at my Assistant Referee (AR) because he disagreed with the call.
Coach: What did he say?
CR: He called my AR an asshole.
Player: No I didn’t! I called him an ass.
CR: And you did it several times.
Player: No! Just twice!
* They also believe that they are the most hilarious person on the planet.
Player [during post-game handshake]: If “ass” is in the dictionary, then it should be allowed to be said on the field.
* The quickest way to embarrass yourself as a player is to get whistled for a foul, immediately bring the hands and arms up in the “what did I do” pose, and turn around only to find the ref standing three yards behind you. Yeah, you got caught, just run back upfield.
* The second quickest way to embarrass yourself as a player is after receiving a warning for a foul that the next one will result in a persistent infringement yellow card and then actually get that card not too long afterwards.
** Or getting the card for the exact same foul that garnered the warning in the first place.
- Most club coaches believe that every referee is a Grade 4 (MLS / Professional level) with ten years of service, when in fact the majority of referees are Grade 8 (Amateur youth level) with probably less than a year of service.
* I have only met one Grade 5 (National service level) referee, and ironically he works at the same Very Large Bank as I do, but in a different area.
* Little known fact, but a referee under the age of 19 can only work games where the age limit is two years or younger below their own age. So, a 19-year-old ref can only ref up to U17 games.
* Grade 9 referees are only allowed to referee recreational games or U7/U8 small-sided games (6 or 7 players to a side).
- Coaches will try anything to get around the rules, including but not limited to, showing up with 22 kids, playing a player that received a red card earlier in the day (and thus would have an automatic one-game suspension), trying to substitute at times when they are not allowed (corner kicks, other team’s throw-in) then saying that “the other refs let them do it”, and even trying to use under-inflated balls so that the kids can kick the “soft” ball farther.
* I wish I were making up the previous examples.
- Having the Regional Assessor (ie. Referee assessor for AZ, CO, NM, NV, and UT) observe your game as you work as the center referee and then tell you that you should have red-carded a kid instead of giving him a yellow is akin to being 5 years old again and getting your hand caught in the cookie jar.
* Having the Regional Assessor tell you that he hasn’t seen a ref all weekend run the field like you do, that your positioning is near perfect, and that he believes that you should be at a Grade 7 this time next year is like winning the Powerball and MegaMillions in the same week.
- As an AR, if you take the time to explain some of the calls to the parents on the sideline in between running up and down the line, they will become better informed about the game AND stop making comments to your CR about how bad (in their opinion) his calls are.
* Establishing a good rapport with the parents on the sidelines also means they will enjoy the game much more, even when calls don’t necessarily go their way. One of the easiest ways is to make a knowledgeable comment to the person wearing a college or pro team shirt regarding that team. (“How many more times are the Suns going to give up a last-second desperation three?”, or “Man U (Manchester United) seems to be on a winning streak now, don’t they?”)
* If you make a mistake, like raising your flag quickly and it goes flying out of your hand, being able to laugh about it in front of the parents also goes a long way to making the game enjoyable. (No, it wasn’t me.)
- Somewhere ages ago, somebody taught a player that getting the ball first in a tackle meant that the play was legal and everything was ok, even if the opposing player was knocked down or injured. That fallacy has perpetuated to now.
* Coaches and parents need to remember that the safety of the players is THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY OF THE REF. “Getting the ball first” does not necessarily make a tackle legal. Getting it first while following through with the rest of the body in a careless or reckless manner or using excessive force DOES make the tackle ILLEGAL.
- Intimidating/verbally abusive parents are the #1 reason why new young referees drop out of refereeing. There is a chronic shortage of eager, young, and fit referees, and every parent out there needs to remember that the newest refs will make mistakes. They have to learn on the job because instructional videos and classrooms only can teach so much. Be patient with them because there may be a time in the future when your kid is playing a high-level club game, and the game is rescheduled three times because no refs were available to work the game – who knows, that rescheduling nightmare could have been a direct result of the abuse of the new ref who decided to drop out instead of continuing to work.
* There are also referees out there that are only doing it for the paycheck. You can usually tell who those guys are. Trust me when I say the referee assignor knows it too, and eventually those guys get passed up for the refs that want to be there.
* If you’re unlucky enough to have one of those refs at your game that just mails it in, whether he’s the CR or an AR, just remember – the referee is just like the field and the weather. You have no control over field conditions or weather conditions, so play how the field and weather permits.