And I was stunned by many of their questions. Although they had questions on the rules, half of their questions centered on controlling adults, whether it is the coaches or the player’s parents on the spectator side. One 11-year-old girl raised her hand and started to talk about how her coach, in a game she was playing in two years before, got into a big argument with the opposing coach.
My advice was for the ref to tell the coach, if he or she yelled at the ref, to simply say, “Coach, we are trying our best as refs just as you are doing as a coach. The game will go smoother if you concentrate on coaching your team rather than commenting on the officiating.”
And if the coach continues to say derogatory things about the officiating, for the ref to stop the game and get the field coordinator, an adult, involved. The field coordinator should also become involved when a parent on the spectator side starts yelling at the refs. One boy then raised his hand and criticized the club for having one field coordinator per complex rather than one per field.
So my question for these young refs was, if everybody who returned as a ref had been yelled at the season before and they remembered that quite clearly, why did they return?
The answer was for the money of $10 per game, which takes an hour to play. But a question that could not be answered that night was how many kids, upset that they were yelled at, decided to not return as refs no matter what they were being paid.
A good solution for a coach, concerned if the refs were missing fouls, would be to have a pleasant discussion with the refs and field coordinator that more fouls needed to be whistled on both teams. This conversation could occur in-between periods (many of these small-sided games are now played in quarters).
I told these young refs that when I started as an intramural ref when I was 16 years old and a travel team ref when I was 18, there were a couple of coaches in whose eyes I could do nothing right. And I thought it ironic that I had to be the mature one particularly when dealing with a man more than double my age.
The travel team coach, with a girls U-11 squad, was upset that I gave a PK to a local rival team with his team losing 2-0 in the last minute of the game and had the kicker retake the missed kick when the goalkeeper moved three steps off the line before the ball was kicked. This coach yelled at me when he arrived at the field for a game months later. So I cautioned him and he had to keep quiet the rest of the match. This was the only time in my four-decade ref career that I ever sanctioned a coach before the game.
I learned to concentrate on the many good things that were happening to me as a ref and not on the jerks and this positive attitude has been a key factor in the longevity of my referee career. But these very young refs, younger than I was when I started, were obviously having issues processing being yelled at in the same way.
I make mistakes, you make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes but we are trying our best. It’s an extremely sad commentary when young refs in elementary and middle school are being yelled at by overly exuberant parents more than double their age.
So, let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to all be better behaved at soccer fields in 2018, for the sake of our youth players as well as the refs who do their games.