How to Best Handle Soccer Referees

Soccer Referees - (Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org)

For all of soccer’s beauty and fun, many games can be won or lost not on the merits of the players, but on a poor call by a referee.  Growing up I can recall numerous occasions where my team or a friend’s team was beaten, and the overwhelming belief was that the ref blew one or more crucial calls throughout the game.  Sure, it is an easy excuse for losing a game, but the reality of the situation is that referees are human too and that everyone makes mistakes.  So how should a coach deal with such an issue?

First off, no matter how terrible a ref may be, there must be a level of respect shown towards them, and that starts with the coach.  Sure, in the professional matches we witness a coach yelling at an official on a gamely basis, but there is a little bit more on the line.  Additionally, those referees are trained professionals and are usually well equipped to continue managing the game in a fair manner.

In youth soccer, as many refs tend to be just slightly older children themselves, yelling at an official is a terrible idea for several reasons.  First, it shows bad sportsmanship to the team.  As a coach, you are a role model.  If you make a scene by yelling at a ref, everyone will see it, and the children will start to think that it’s ok.  Do you really want your team to start whining and hollering at the refs like a mini Barcelona FC?

Furthermore, since the referees are often kids themselves, any rudeness shown towards them is likely to result in vindictive calls.  The ref could easily start to make iffy calls against your team, just to get back at you.

Lastly, and also importantly, blaming a referee simply placates the loss onto someone else.  People and especially children never like to blame themselves for their shortcomings and will look for any excuse to overcome a loss from poor play.  Referees are very easy targets, and you should not let this mindset get into your team’s heads.

Youth soccer players should know that they lost the game because they got beaten.  This will persuade them to work harder and try harder next time.  Placating blame on a ref is the weak and easy move to build false confidence.

So next time the referee mistakenly calls a handball in the box and awards the opposing team a penalty, don’t start screaming at the ref out of anger.  Do what you can to help your team overcome the obstacle and win the game.  Surely, there have been times you have benefitted from a referee’s error.  Let the referees do their job, and that often means leaving him or her alone.


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