Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Be Nice or Be Gone

I apologize for the delay in my writings folks, it has been a crazy holiday week. Family time, soccer, and to cap it off on Columbus Day, the Jamestown Classic, a small but tons of fun road race in Jamestown RI I was a part of.

During the weekend however I had a life lesson reenforced to me that has relevance inside the pitch. It is as the title states "Be Nice or Be Gone." Another way to state this would be to maintain your decorum at all times when representing yourself as a referee.

While the particular situation I faced is not relevant, or for that matter even worth mentioning, the take away was.

Failure to act professional can have far reaching consequences. As much as one may want to dress down a player or a coach ... maybe even a spectator, don't do it. It may be justified. Heck it may be needed for everyones sake, just deal with it above board (i.e. as the LOTG proscribe) and move on. To do otherwise invites trouble for you.

Here is a real example that I faced when my lack of decorum got me in some long lasting trouble.

I was refereeing a college match in CT. Good match, good teams, nice campus and facilities. One team was down a goal and pressing on the opponent in the last 10 minutes or so. Throughout the match the coach who was down a goal was chiding me about use of advantage and how I was not doing enough to let the play flow. I came to find out later, it was his particular "hot button" in general.

Well I had had about enough, and already working hard on the match, and keeping him in it, as sending a coach off in college is a one way ticket to not coming back to that school generally, there was a particular play that was the beginning of the end of my time at that school.

From the back, the team down a goal received a ball to their lone striker from a quick counter, who then was faced with (4) defenders to beat before being able to get to goal. No one else around, no reasonable chance to move the ball (35) yards for a reasonable scoring chance. She was fouled by the closest defender resulting in a free kick to the striker for the foul. Simple, right? Wrong.

Result ... a screaming coach for use of advantage.

Well, I had just about enough at this point and was going to give that coach a piece of my mind, and said in a raised voice "(the player) did not have a chance to make it through there to have a reasonable chance on goal."

The pitch went silent as it was immediately taken as a slight to the player and not a rebuttal to the coaches poor conduct. I actually heard a mom in the stands say "... oh my ..." in response to my comments.

The coach went silent knowing he had finally baited me to the point he wanted, and the match concluded with that team down a goal. We however were far from done.

In a week or so I received an email from the assigner of the league stating the coach and the whole team were insulted by my comments and I needed to apologize. It was a bit of an inflated claim I am sure, but the coach wanted his due, and to be honest the comment was intended for the coach, and not to disrespect a player.

I apologized genuinely to the player, and offered one to the coach as well because it was the right thing to do. The coach was wrong in his analysis of the play, I know that, and he may too. It was still important for me to apologize for losing my cool to demonstrate that I am a professional. It was wrong to lose it and not deal with the situation in a civil manner.

It did continue to cost me as I was not invited back to that school again for a match for either the men or women.

A big deal? Not really as I do college for fun, and I have seen my "days in the sun" with MLS and WUSA.

It does serve as a constant reminder however that being professional means being civil, even being nice, when you may not want to be. You may be 100% right about something, but to react inappropriately can cost more than the brief satisfaction you get from acting outside yourself.


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your experience Peter. I, myself, have felt times I wanted to snap at coaches or players for extremely rude or frustrating remarks/behaviour but you are right. In the end, we must be polite and professional at all times. Above all it takes great courage to be able to maintain ourselves on the field.
    I hope your reputation at this school will be restored soon.

  2. Thanks very much Harris!

    I am not so worried about the reputation at that school as it is water (way) under the bridge. Like I said however it serves as a reminder to me moving forward.

    By the way ... love your blog. For any interested, they should visit at http://harrisrasheed123.wordpress.com/, now posted at right as well.


  3. Great point Peter! Young or starting referees should definitely have the opportunity to get exposure to these articles so they are prepared for these kind of pitfalls and know that they should bite their lip in the most trying of times.

    Either way we all operate our refereeing careers based on our reputation and skill and hope it is indeed water under the bridge. :)

    Glad you liked my blog as well! I've been going through yours too. Very interesting to say the least and dare I say you have the Referee Bug?

  4. I do indeed Harris. While the active infection is in its closing stages, I will have the symptoms for my lifetime.


  5. I'm sorry I missed this thread.

    Peter thanks for sharing what I think is one of the MOST IMPORTANT skills that anyone wanting to be a top referee MUST have: how to control your emotions. This skill is the context where all the other NECESSARY skills (knowing the the Law & Spirit of the game, fitness, people management) live and breathe. Without this light all the other skills are difficult to find when needed.

    As we age, we also find that this skill has alot to do with success off the field as well.

    Thank you for sharing this incredibly important attribute of a sucessful person.

    1. Thanks Anon. It is my pleasure.

      It is safe to say, I agree with you completely, and speaking personally, it is a lesson refereeing helped to teach me ... and remind me about when I still feel like losing my cool.

      Thanks for reading,