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Soccer Parenting Primer: Referees

The Spring Crunch is upon our household as school, sports, Scouts, etc. wind down. This past weekend we had nine soccer games on the family calendar. We ended up 8-1-0. If you love soccer (as I do) it was great fun.

Of course spending that much time at soccer field complexes with multiple games occurring simultaneously gives me ample opportunity to watch soccer parents as well as soccer games. This leads me to my next installment of the Soccer Parenting Primer: Soccer Parenting and Referees (You can read previous installments here and here.)

As a soccer parent, you are there to watch, encourage, and cheer. You are not there to coach. You are definitely not there to referee. The game of soccer is very fast and very fluid. There are rules. However, the referee has a great deal of latitude on whether he will enforce the rules. Fouls that endanger players are almost always called. On the other hand, pulling an opponent’s jersey is illegal. Yet if it would be more advantageous to the non-offending team to let play continue at that moment, the referee may not call the foul. The offsides ruling causes no end of consternation. To be called as offsides, a player must be in the offsides position at the time his teammate plays the ball (not when the ball reaches him) and either interfere with play, interfere with an opponent, or gain advantage from being in that position. This allows for a great deal of subjective judgment on the part of the referee. Therefore, the referee controls the game. It is his judgment, at a given moment, from his perspective that matters. Your judgment, even if you are yourself a trained referee, is of no consequence. The referee and his subjective opinions are part of the game of soccer. For those who are used to the instant replay precision of American football, this can be difficult to understand. A detailed source for the Laws of the Game of Soccer can be found at the FIFA website.

There is nothing to be gained by shouting criticism at the referee. In fact, if there is constant heckling of the officials, the subjective judgment can certainly be swayed against a team. You do your team no favors by angering the referees. Soccer etiquette requires all officials to be addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. At the younger age groups, the referees are often less experienced. Many times they are teenagers Combine this with novice soccer parents who don’t know the rules as well as they think they do and it can be an explosive situation. Therefore, every team needs a level headed parent to set the tone for the rest. Many leagues require teams to designate a parent to be responsible for fan behavior. I recommend this parent carry a bag of hard candy suckers. As soon as parent starts getting negative hand him a lollipop. It is very hard to shout criticisms and insults with a Tootsie Pop in your mouth.

Set a good example for your children. You want to be proud of their play on the field. They want to be proud of your behavior on the sidelines. Soccer is a beautiful game. However, it is just a game.


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