This story (and those like it) go something like this:
- Experienced referee is officiating a local youth game, usually U-14 or below.
- Match is going fine.
- Referee applies the laws in a way that the youth players are not accustom to.
- Players take exception.
- Adults take exception.
- Players and/or adults emote their concerns (constructively or not).
- Referee does not notice or does not adjust accordingly.
- Players and/or adults act out.
Now from the onset let me say that this is a pretty general pattern in youth sports and can be applied to just about anything that participants don't like. In this case there is some "magic" in steps 3 and 7 where a referee is doing something players at an age, or really better stated, playing level, are not ready for, and the referee does not recognize and adjust to the level.
I say "playing level" and not "age" as there are some very young players that are sophisticated and coached well that are more prepared than most youth referees in some settings (e.g. Regional Play or some international tournaments such as Dallas Cup). This scenario is not intend to reflect that case. As it turns out, it is the referee who may "act out" in those cases. I will cover that in a future post.
Here, we have the case of a referee who has not adjusted properly, did not recognize, and resulted in upset parents ... to the point of assault and battery.
The "magic" incident was captured in the SA story (interestingly not others that reported it however):
"... playing in a U-10 game in the Atlanta area ... the referee ... didn't stop play after the girl was hit in the chest by the ball and fell down."The result:
"The mother ... entered the field and slapped the referee because he didn't stop play. The mother left by the time Forsyth County Sheriff deputies arrived. The victim of the slap from the 39-year-old woman was a 30-year-old male referee, whose face was reddened and his lip bloodied."
The reason the referee gave for not stopping play for 9 year olds:
"According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the ref didn't stop play because the other team was in possession – and waited until the ball went out of bounds."So ask yourself as referees, are you applying the laws in a way the players recognize and understand? In this case, there may even be a more basic question that needs to be asked ...
Did the players feel safe with the decisions the referee was making?
For me, was the referee technically correct in waiting to stop play?
Did they get themselves into trouble by waiting to stop play?
So what is a referee to do then, apply the laws as written or modify them for the game at hand?
Sounds like "double speak" but the referee must apply the LOTG while keeping the interpretations at the level of the players. If not, they will react negatively and put the match in jeopardy.
In this particular case, there is even a simpler message. For a local U-10 match, is a player goes down, stop the play regardless of what else is going on. It is the safest course for these young players.
Finally, while I understand the mom's concern for her daughter. This referee should file the criminal charges, and follow up with a civil suit. Overly litigious? Maybe, but this parent needs to understand the damage she did by committing assault and battery on a match official to herself, and THE game. This would not be about "revenge" (there is no big pay day here folks), but it is about protecting THE game, and ALL of its participants, even the folks in the funny colored shirts.