Monday, March 12, 2012

Don't Get Sucked In

At times referees are witness to very personal things within proximity of the soccer field. This is particularly true in youth soccer where parent/child and coach/child interactions are on full display.

Paul Levy in his blog post "How not to inspire" describes one such interaction between a parent and his daughter after a futsal match. It is a short read with a powerful lesson.

There is a lesson within the lesson however, and that is for a referee to not get involved in such situations. This may be hard, and frankly may not feel right to do, but it is necessary most of the time. There are of course exceptions when a player is in physical harm, or when the LOTG require intervention from the referee.

While some of us are trained professionals who are equipped to handle such situations as necessary, we can not reasonably discharge both duties at once and expect a good result. We get lambasted for dispensing refereeing decisions, imagine what would happen with these types of scenarios.

Let me be clear, I am not advocating leaving a child in peril, or anyone else for that matter, but leave parenting to the parents, coaching to the coaching, and medical care to the doctors. To do otherwise invites trouble that as referees we don't need.

Let me equally clear that I have not always taken my own advice, with mixed results. There are times that I have stuck my nose in and made things much better for all. I have inserted myself and made things much, much worse as well. So while my general rule is "don't get sucked in," like anything else in life, your mileage may vary if you just can't help yourself.


  1. Maybe it was my hostile upbringing...but calling a little girl "lazy" doesn't seem to be all that negative. Last year after a game I walked by the losing team and the coach said to 12 year old girls "Well we really did suck today didn't we?"

    Now that sounds bad...but I have no idea what the relationship is between that coach and those players. Getting in the middle of it while being ignorant isn't the best way to go about it.

    However lets say that I said What's the problem? They won't like that I butted in? I don't see that as an issue, my opinion can be expressed it's not going to affect the game or the way I referee it. Also if it does, I've had bad games before not the end of the world.

  2. Anon,

    I have to say honestly some of my knee-jerk reaction was similar to yours in that hard, even harsh words can serve a purpose even with younger players. (I don't think lazy is harsh) The point I think Paul's article was making was that the dad should have then listened to the answer and used it as a "teachable moment." To just lambaste a youth player, turn away, and not have a message in there may not be an optimum technique for teaching. Then again, not every moment is a teachable one.

    Regarding getting involved in a discussion of the type, I ask myself first (before I get involved), what is the reason for my involvement. If it is to stop something like a battery from happening, then I am all in. However if it is more to simply offer an opinion about something I will generally keep it to myself.

    It may seem odd, as everyone feels inclined to offer an opinion about my refereeing, or refereeing in general, but I generally gravitate to how truly uninformed many of those folks are and (for me anyway) would wonder how informed I am about sharing an opinion about something else I have just stumbled on.

    But again like I said in the article, that is just me, and others' mileage will vary. There are no "right" answers in stuff like this.