Monday, February 24, 2014

It's the people, not the rules

I caught an interesting article from Mike Woitalla in Soccer America titled, Put refs and coaches in the same room. Similar in venue to what we discussed last week with He Blinded Me With Science!, this discussion too was from the US Youth Soccer gathering in Philadelphia. The .pdf of the slide deck can be found here.

In the ether, the points have some merit. While I am sure that some actual polling went behind the conclusions, I have to believe the sample size was so small and the focus so narrow that the actual results are not quite on point or at least so general to be not helpful to anyone specific.

Don't get me wrong, they are worth reading as again, each has merit, at least at the highest level of abstraction. Also, the title is a good idea unto itself as well ... provided they are the right referees and coaches. At the professional level this is an absolute necessity, but even there, with the right people. Can we really imagine the outcome of placing a group of young, youth referees in a room with a bunch of older coaches? Are the issues all rules and regulations, or is there something else at play here?

Do we really think that if we take Peter Walton's advise from this article and have referees be more demonstrative in signaling fouls that the types of issues hurled on referees, such as abuse, will end?

How about inconsistency? Do we as referees always want to be consistent regarding fouls all the time for the same reason? I hope not as any number of situations may cause us to intentionally stray from this course of action.

Two very concrete points I really like are (a) make players and coaches take a referee class and exam. This sadly was recently removed from anyone who was getting their "A" license and to the best of my knowledge the certification requires no actual referee classroom work or experience. (b) Is to require coaches to referee a set of matches to feel what it is like to referee.

Some have commented this is not very practical and I disagree strongly. With these (2) steps you could make at least coaches feel empathy for these young youth referees which is what I believe is the intent behind "getting in the same room."

I think we keep forgetting, it is not about the silly rule book or how it is executed in the majority of the youth soccer games across the planet ... it's about the people and how we choose to manage each other. I believe humility and empathy are far more important than demonstrative signals and consistency.

Don't believe me? Try using NFL type signals the next time out and see the reaction you get.

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