By Randy Vogt
In the early 1990s, the college referee chapter in which I am now a Vice President, NYMISOA (New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association), started a sportsmanship award.
Each official was sent a ballot. The instructions said to grade the coach of that team of squads we officiated during the season on the scale of one to 10 -- one for none or a very small amount of sportsmanship and 10 for much sportsmanship.
I read the instructions incorrectly and started grading the players of the teams instead. After nearly completing the form, I realized my mistake so I crossed out my answers. In now grading the coaches, my points mimicked what I had written for the players of those teams. In nearly all cases, the points were exactly the same! So if I had given a seven for the players of State U., the coach received a seven as well.
The lesson to be learned here is how much coaches influence the conduct of their players. And these were college players, most of whom had been playing soccer for a decade or more. Youth players with less experience playing plus in life in general should be even more impressionable.
Therefore, the conduct of coaches is an extremely important factor in controlling the game.
So how do the officials control coaches who need to be controlled?
Soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, says that the coach is not to be shown a yellow or red card, unlike the players. A coach can simply be dismissed.
What I would do in this case is if the coach starts yelling at or constantly complaining to any of the officials, nicely and calmly tell the coach, “Coach, let us concentrate on officiating the game and you concentrate on coaching your players. Otherwise, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Should the coach continue, dismiss the coach. No exceptions! If you do not dismiss the coach, you will most likely lose control of the match, in part because you did not do what you said would happen. Plus that coach will think that he or she can yell at officials with impunity and will probably do the same to the officials at the team’s next match. In fact, you could be receiving the effects of a coach who is a yeller and possibly a referee-baiter but who has gone unpunished up to this point.
Upon dismissal, the coach must leave the field area for the duration of the match. The locker room or a distant parking lot would be a good place for the coach to go.
Should the coach refuse to leave the field area, simply tell him or her, “Coach, if you refuse to leave the field area, I will be forced to terminate this match because of your actions.”
Then terminate the match if the coach still refuses to leave.
Write a report about why the coach was dismissed and send to the appropriate authority for their review, including any inappropriate comments or actions by the coach after dismissal.
Most leagues have passes. With these leagues, it’s likely that a coach is sanctioned by a referee displaying yellow and red cards, just like the players. Check with the league or your referee association first before officiating the game.
In these leagues, follow this protocol: Verbally warn a coach in a nice and calm voice after he or she starts yelling at an official or constantly complaining about the calls. Some coaches will stop at this point.
If the coach continues, display the yellow card for dissent. The great majority of coaches will stop after that. Yet a few coaches are not going to keep control of themselves. Should any coach continue yelling, display the yellow card, then the red card for receiving a second caution in the same match.
Should a coach curse at an official, the other coach, an opposing player or one of his own players or a spectator, the coach is immediately dismissed for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures.
Most coaches will be very well behaved. A small percentage of coaches will not be and they need to be controlled. Control them, control the game. Don’t control them, the match will most likely become out of control.
Follow and enforce the rules, and you will be surprised how much support you receive. The league, after reading your game report, will suspend the coach.
You might also receive support from people at the field. After all, people do not like it when others curse or constantly complain, especially if it’s in front of their own children.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 7,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In “Preventive Officiating,” he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/)