A Ref's View: The Value of a Good Coach

Both games were similar. They were two futsal games played in the boys U-16 age group, but in different divisions as the season wound down. One team in each game was the first-place team and the other team in each match was in the top half of the division standings. The other team was sporting in both cases and the same field was used. The league does not use playoffs so the team at the top of the standings is the league champion.

In the first game, the first-place team, a boys high school JV team, was scored on twice in the first couple of minutes to fall behind, 2-0. They then got their act together and wound up winning 9-3. I remarked at halftime to my ref partner, Bob Koch, that especially for a game for first place at the end of the season, the teams were very well-behaved. There were only 10 fouls during the course of the game.

In the next game, the first-place team was a club team and half of the players on that team played on the JV team that just won. They were always in the lead and wound up winning, 8-4.

The big difference was the attitude of their players as the same players who played in the first game now had a very negative attitude from the opening whistle.

In the second minute, the opposing keeper made a save on the line denoting the penalty area and the first-place team player dissented, yelling that a handball should be whistled. I was taken aback as this was the same player who did not say a word in the previous game and I should have verbally warned him more forcefully than what I wound up doing.

Twice as many fouls were called in this game as the previous one and I did have to reach in my pocket to caution a first-place team player for unsporting behavior when, after he was tripped, he kicked out toward the player who had tripped him.

In the first game, Bob and I were more like judges but in the second game, we were enforcers.

Why the crazy difference in the same players? It all boiled down to the coach.

In the first game, the coach told his players before the game not to commit fouls as he did not want to encounter futsal’s accumulated fouls rule (where the sixth penal foul per half and all other of the team’s penal fouls that half become a kick from the second penalty spot). And when the starting keeper arrived a few minutes before kickoff, he was benched and this was the reason why the team conceded the first two goals. The tardy keeper was eventually inserted into the game but this coach had rules and he enforced them.

In the second game, the coach barely had control of himself and had no control over his players. And his players knew this. The coach dissented a little bit but rather than instructing his team to avoid committing fouls, his comment was that the opposing team was not being penalized for the same amount of contact.

Bob and I refereed both teams twice during the season. Both games with the JV team were well-mannered encounters. Both games with the club team, again with many of the same players, bordered on wild and we certainly had to control their players from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Both teams won the division championship but the club team was very unpopular with the opposing teams, at least in the two games we had officiated. In those matches, they had one player sent off and two players cautioned while the JV team never had anything even approaching a bad foul in the two games we officiated.

In the Boys High School Division, one coach was trying to give a running commentary of the officiating. I cannot allow a coach to do that as it riles up the players, who start concentrating on what is being whistled or not, often at the expense of playing. I had no choice but to show the coach a red card and dismiss him after he did not heed my verbal warning and yellow card.

After serving his suspension, he did not return to the touchline for his team’s remaining games. The best solution would have been for him to be a different and more disciplined coach upon his return, but I did not see him again. He was not missed by me or my colleagues, one of whom called him “a lunatic.” With a steadier presence on the touchline, the number of cards the team accumulated went way down.

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

5 comments about "A Ref's View: The Value of a Good Coach".
  1. beautiful game, March 22, 2019 at 8:23 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing one of the biggest problems in youth coaching.

  2. R2 Dad, March 23, 2019 at 11:57 a.m.

    Thanks for writing this, good example of negative coach behavior infecting his players. It appears that highschool does have influence, am curious how long that suspension was. In my club refereeing world, a 1 match suspension is all that is usually handed out, because the leagues are more concerned about the coaches than the players--this includes CYSA and NorCal. Should coach ejection result in a 3 or 5 match ban, I'm positive coaches would be better behaved. It is, after all, the same old bad actors who continue to infect new kids, new teams, new parents year after year. But the leagues refuse to get serious about this and so it continues. I have learned to avoid refereeing certain clubs which are known for their "macho" solo coaches, who refuse to have an assistant in the technical area because it's all about that pompous, self-important macho coach from which all soccer knowledge must flow. *puke*

  3. Randy Vogt replied, March 23, 2019 at 1:18 p.m.

    R2, I didn’t know how long the coach was suspended, all I know is that he did not return after I dismissed him. Maybe he was insulted by being dismissed and suspended? Although the ref does need to control a problem coach, we cannot control the fact when a coach does not have control of his players or the attitude he has given to his players regarding opponents, refs, etc. I refereed 3 futsal leagues this past winter in New York and officiated the Boys HS Division in 2 of those leagues. The biggest issue in this division was trash-talking. My colleagues and I discussed during the season how the HS teams were not the problems as their coaches were very well-behaved and they had control of their players. Maybe too is that a HS coach could have greater say over whether a player gains entry and scholarship to a college soccer program more so than their club coach so the HS player would know not to cause trouble. With not much soccer played during the New York winter, leagues could recruit the best refs and, when problems do arise, give sent-off players and dismissed coaches a multiple-game suspension in nearly all cases to control behavior.

  4. Craig Cummings, March 23, 2019 at 8:10 p.m.

    Randy you nailed it, but I do not think administrators

     Randy you nailed it, but II do not think an administrator of a HS or club would want  his coach banned for 5 or 6 games do to paying them. Maybe if a coach has  his pay taken away for games suspended he or she might act in a differnt manner. Just a thought.

  5. Craig Cummings, March 23, 2019 at 8:21 p.m.

     Sorry it got  cut off.  Had to look at right spelling of administrator.

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