Sunday, June 28, 2015

An Open Letter to the GU16-1 South Shore League MTOC Team Coaches


During your match today at 4PM on Field #12 at Progin Park in Lancaster MA, I witnessed conduct so pathetic and barbaric from you both, I was compelled to write about it.

Let me start with a clear and unequivocal statement that I harbor no ill will against your team. There is no reason to involve them as they have earned the right to play and from today's result, will continue in the tournament.

My issue is with you both in bullying a seventeen year old girl about a decision she made. Bullying from a pair of late forty, early fifty men that was so persistent and so severe, it brought her to tears during and well after the match.

Bullying so grotesque it involved screaming by you, the lead coach, from the technical area and calling her decision "bull shit" and "what are you trying to do to us?" which persisted for several minuets with your arms raised as if a universal injustice was unfolding right before us.

It did not stop there however, until well after the match when you, the assistant coach, pulled her aside and told her "... I was a referee for 35 years and that was a serious decision you missed." Apparently the comment somehow was intended to have some weight to lessen the systemic bullying you heaped on this girl running the line in front of you, by saying something like "I've been there."

I find the premise pathetic, and if you really wanted to help you should have just walked away, or if you really felt compelled to say something like "I'm sorry I lost my head" or "I was a referee and know how hard it is. Thanks for all you are doing today" would have been fine thanks.

Please don't lower our craft by somehow thinking because you wore a referee badge at some time, you are obliged to offer free advise to any referee who strays from your vision of what should happen. Referees don't need that kind of help, from you, or anyone like you.

Referees, all referees, need coaching and support from those involved to allow them to learn the craft.  Now you may feel that is somehow unfair to your team which may have a legitimate opportunity to be crowned the "best team in the state." Let me tell you something, if you are so overwhelmed with that goal such that you are willing to bring a seventeen year old to tears, I would opine your priorities are tremendously out of whack ... and if you think a trophy makes you "champions" you have missed the point completely.

Consider the twist if I were to dissent to your team if they missed a play on the ball or made a wrong decision. Imagine if I shouted from the touchline "you suck #whatever, that was a shitty touch." Can you imagine the fallout if I continued my hypothetical pathetic tirade until she cried. But not to be deterred I had another person with me to say, "It's okay, you were really that bad and I used to play, so I know."

Of course it is not okay.

So why do you both think it is okay to do this to a seventeen year old girl who is serving the game as a referee??

A critical point you both have likely failed to consider is you have likely ended this referees career with your bullying. I can say this because I spoke to her for a while after and she has no real interest in coming back to get screamed at again. I don't blame her and I hope I am wrong, but at the very least, she will not be back tomorrow.

Over 50% of referees didn't come back after two years due largely to "above the game arrogance" like you both demonstrated today. If that was your goal, well done, you have likely succeeded.

In conclusion, I find your collective behavior boorish. For a forty or fifty something to berate a seventeen year old girl to tears and only stop when an adult was present for concern about "getting yelled at" as you stated when the field marshall approached, is a special kind of bully. I can only imagine what the parents of your players would think to see you bring that girl to tears.

I'm fairly certain it's not "what a role model our coaches are."


  1. Excellent post. shared this with soccer parent friends.

    1. Thanks RA!

      Please share with as many as possible!

      Thanks for reading,

  2. Great post, Peter! I came up as a teenage referee working with jerk coaches -- and survived. I am very quick to come to the defense of young referees

    But what's the rest of the story? Did you speak to these coaches on site? What was their conversation with the field marshal? Have they been sanctioned by the state or the tournament authority in any way?

    It's great to call them out in public, but the administration has to be in place to protect young referees as well.

    Jeff Ardis

    1. Thanks Jeff!

      I have chosen not to publish the follow up details here as the "what happened next" with the coaches, marshals, and referees to me is less critical to the incident itself which should (to me) remain the highlight.

      I will say that there was ample discussion will all parties, and in particular the referee team which we turned it into a moment of reflection and education in how to deal with such situations when in the moment and after.

      Like you I have been through my fair share of scrapes with bullies, both on and off the field and it is my hope everyone involved took something away so when it happens next time (and there will be a next time) at least the referees are better prepared.

      Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon,

  3. Shame on these coaches! To think that this is the example behavior they are setting for the entire team - complaining AND swearing! Such antics should not be tolerated, it is up to us as referees, especially those that have been around a while, to stamp this out. I sincerely hope that this crew is able to put this behind them and continue to referee. We need officials like these folks, people that dedicated an entire day and in some cases an entire weekend to this tournament.

    1. Thanks for reading Anon!

      I agree with your comments 100%


  4. Enjoyed the article and I also plan to share it with our clubs coaches and parents.

    My concern is with the league, other coaches, parents, etc.. This type of behavior is (as you stated) unacceptable and needs to be stopped when it is happening, not after the game. Our club here in CT has a no tolerance policy for ref (or player) abuse and EVERYONE is supposed to be on-board to enforce it. Refs are encouraged to stop the match if they are uncomfortable and coaches like this would be reported, sanctioned, and probably let go.

    As a ref and assignor, I am fiercely protective for "my" refs and they know it. And most of them are still reffing when they go off to college.
    Keep up the good work and take care of those refs.

    Eric Baughman

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful note Eric.

      You bring up an interesting point regarding "zero tolerance" policies. The above case certainly applies and I believe strongly stopping the match or ejecting the coach would certainly have been justified in such a case.

      I have to be honest I do not go so far as to limit any seeming negative interaction with coaches for a couple of reasons.

      First is the fact that some coaches have important points to deliver to referees if they are truly missing something. I personally have found coaches to be good talisman for persistent infringement. Granted it can be one sided, but it may exist none the less.

      Second, is too sterile an environment may not let the referee grow in a way that may inhibit them later. I am start to call this the "day care" rule. When I had kids in day care they required any child that was ill to be "fever free" for 24h prior to returning to day care ... a good common sense rule. They did however get sick even outside of that rule and I personally think that was ok as it exposed them to a wider range of things to help build a healthy immune system.

      Similar idea with referees. I think *some* dissent is ok. It helps the referee start to understand and interact more with elements of The Game they will need to manage in later refereeing life. Now to be clear, things like the above are crap and referees should have the tools (like a ZTP) to remove such folks. My concern is referees who become too reliant on such policies and fail to grow as a result.

      That said, your point is well taken and I am happy to see warriors like yourself out there helping our young referees.

      Thanks for reading!