Referee Q+A

Real Question, Real Answers

This document contains questions and answers from and to brand-new intramural referees from the spring 2007 season.

I enjoyed watching the game today. One thing I realized was that it is okay, and necessary, for a ref to stand pretty close to the play because they are not in too much danger of interfering with the play because it does not move too quickly. Additionally, there are a lot of players near each other at once and the ref must be able too see what is really going on. Also, I was wondering what a ref should do if play is going and they realize that one team has an extra player on the field. Should the ref stop the play or let play continue as he or she notifies the coach?

We do need to be somewhat close to play, but we don’t want to be in the way and we need to be able to see all of what’s going on – not just a couple of players.

In terms of the ‘extra’ player, let me first back up and let’s think about why there would be an extra player. When teams sub, we need to check that the number coming on the field (for each team) is the same as the number of kids going off. This should eliminate the biggest likely source of the problem. In spite of this, funny things can and do happen. If you notice too many players on one team, there are some options. Our main job is to be sure the team with an extra player doesn’t gain an advantage from this. If a player is near an edge of the field, we can just tell her to get off the field, that there are too many players right now. Otherwise, unless the ‘shorthanded’ team is in the middle of an attack on the goal, you should probably blow the whistle, explain what you noticed, have the team fix the situation, then restart with an indirect kick for the other team from roughly where the ball was when you stopped play. This is not an ‘official’ ruling, since, by the rules, this shouldn’t happen, but this would be fine for our purposes.

Thanks for organizing all of the referee training clinics! From the game today…how do you pick the game ball? Is calling out of bounds (at least in 2nd and 3rd grade) a slightly looser rule – like not kicking the ball twice on a goal kick/face off?

Usually, the home team (orange) is supposed to supply the game ball. Ask for one, check to be sure it seems reasonable (not too hard or too soft). If for some reason orange doesn’t have a decent one, try the white team – someone better have one!

I do tend to be a little looser at second grade, where there are no lines. If the ball seems only slightly ‘out’, and it seems safe to keep playing, I will encourage the kids to “keep playing!”. At some point, though, we need to blow the whistle and have a restart. Third grade and up will usually have lines’ when they do, they should be used properly.

In terms of second kick on a goal kick or kick off (I assume you meant kick off, not face off!). I thought I was pretty good about this. If I ever allowed one to happen and didn’t call it back, I probably had a good reason. I’m usually pretty careful about using this as a ‘teaching moment’. Best wishes,

Thanks for letting me know about the kickoff. The game went pretty well. In the first quarter I was a little nervous so when I blew the whistle and spoke to the players I wasn’t very loud, but I got better as the game went on. I had a lot of fun and found myself teaching the players lots of things (which I didn’t expect to do). If something goes wrong when the kids bring the ball into play, but they keep playing, should you have them redo it or let them keep playing? If they mess up on the kickoff, should you give them another chance or just give the ball to the other team right away?

Sounds like a very good first experience Sarah – you should be proud of yourself. You already seem to be showing more confidence than you might have expected of yourself and understand the importance of our whistle and voice being heard. 

As you may recall from my teaching and demonstrating, I am generally in favor of kids learning to start and restart games properly. They are unlikely to gain this knowledge anywhere else, as coaches either don’t know this stuff themselves or don’t have time to teach it. That said, you know I don’t want games to get bogged down in throw-ins. The day I did those 3 games in a row, I didn’t call a single bad one back to be re-taken, but I did have a word before the throw-in almost every time., and I had a word several times after a throw-in that wasn’t so great. In terms of kick-offs in particular, I really want them to learn from all of us the 2 things that must happen: first, the ball must go forward (which means anything other than backwards – if there were a half-way line the ball can’t be kicked back of the line). If it isn’t kicked forward, blow the whistle, tell them what was wrong, and have the same team kick again (because the kickoff never really happened properly). The other thing is, like on any free kick (corner kick, kick after a foul, goal kick), the kicker can’t kick it twice in a row. If that happens, blow the whistle and restart with an indirect free kick for the other team, explaining why this is happening. They get it eventually, and we’ll have to remind less and less. If we don’t enforce this regularly, they really won’t ‘get it’ at all. Best wishes,

I noticed that you really talked to the girls and encouraged them. You told them what they were supposed to do. I think that the girls really like a ref that can help them become a better player.

Thanks for the observations. Jacquie. Please understand that if they become better players because of what we do, that’s a nice bonus, but practice, games, and coaching should be the main vehicles for them becoming better players. Our main purpose in teaching is to help them understand the game, its laws, and how they are applied. Best wishes,

I know that you wanted a question or comment from today’s game to show that we were thinking. I noticed a couple important points about making mistakes.

If you make a mistake and it would interrupt the flow of the game to correct it, just admit your mistake and wait until it is a more opportune time to set it right. (For example, if we had forgotten to have the girls switch sides.)

If a girl makes a mistake for the first time (for example, not keeping her elbows close enough to her sides) you can talk to her, explain what she is doing wrong and wait until the next time to call a foul.

About my forgetting to switch sides, in a game at this age, with sun or wind not a big deal, it was fine to admit my mistake, but since the players really don’t know about it themselves, it would have been more confusing to switch at that point. Better to just continue as is. Just for your information, if I had done this at a higher level game (possible, but very unlikely), and a ‘goal’ had been scored, I could take away the goal and ‘fix’ things if there hadn’t yet been the next kickoff.

As you saw, it’s fine to talk to players about things you have concerns about. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to give a warning before you call a foul, or that the ‘next time’ is automatically a foul. You have to judge each action on its own, in the context of the age group you’re reffing. Some things we see are ‘nothing’. Some may deserve a word to a player, some are fouls we need to call. We want to avoid saying things like ‘next time you do that. I’m calling a foul’, because the next time, you may not think it is a foul, and we lose credibility. Best wishes,

There one question in particular that I am wondering about. I don’t think this happened in the game, but would you do if a dog or baby comes on the field and you stop the game to get them off. Do you restart the game with a drop ball or let the team that had control have the ball. If you could tell me that would be great.

As you will note on the bottom right of the sheet I handed out about fouls, if you’ve stopped play to deal with something like a baby on the field, or even an injury, the restart would be a drop ball, from the place the ball was at the time you stopped play. If the ball had already left the field, like for a throw in, then you notice the baby on the field, you get the baby off and restart with whatever the restart would have been anyway (in this case a throw-in). Best wishes,

The game went pretty well…for next time, I’ll work on volume (Whistle, voice). Only one question: The visiting team (Peacocks) had one player show up 10 minutes late and 3 others closer to half time. To begin the game, the coach of the home team (Ospreys) suggested having a scrimmage until the other players showed up. For future reference, what should I do if one team isn’t there?

Thanks for getting back to me Carolyn. Glad you’re aware of the volume issue. It’s far and away the #1 thing the coaches talk to me about (“Can you get the girls to blow the whistle louder?”).

In terms of your question, we have to be ready for all kinds of things, especially around school vacation times. We do need to be aware, unless we’re the last game of the day on that field, that we can’t cause delays for games after us. I know you had the ‘middle’ game, so you couldn’t really wait long. In that case, it’s fine to encourage the coaches to do whatever they can to get the girls playing in as fair a way as possible. That might mean one team ‘borrowing’ players from the other team, playing 3 against 3 – anything within reason is fine as long as coaches and ref agree on what’s going on. It’s not our job to insist on what should happen, but to facilitate something reasonable. Never worry about getting paid – you’ll always be paid if you show up, no matter what happens (unless of course you were informed, or should have called the hot line, about the game being cancelled). Now if they seem to want to do something that you don’t feel is appropriate, or doesn’t need a ref, it’s your right to let them know that, but hopefully anything that is like a game should be able to be reffed in a way to keep things fair and safe. Best wishes,

The question I thought of during the second grade game was at the beginning of a quarter how do you know which team starts with the ball.

Good question, Cate. As you may have seen, I didn’t bother with a coin toss – it really just wastes time. I just decide who will start on what side and who will kick off based on how they get out there. I usually give the kick off to whichever team is out there first. Then that same team kicks off to start quarter #2 also. The other team kicks off quarters # 3 and #4. Best wishes,

One question I have is do you mark down who scores a goal?

Another question is what happens if one team does not have enough players to go on the field?

One easy one, one harder one. You don’t need to mark down the goal scorer(s); you don’t even need to keep scores at these grades. Remember how I tucked the form into my bag once it was signed by the home coach?

When a team is short-handed there are a few things we’re trying to keep in mind. Unless we’re the last game of the day, we can’t wait too long to get things started. If the coach tells you he knows he’ll only have, for example, 3-4 players (and the other team has 7-8), you can suggest he ask the other coach if he can borrow a player or two. Usually coaches will take this upon themselves, but inexperienced coaches may not think of this. It’s not our job to insist upon something like this, but we can suggest it, and let them know we’re here to do what we can to help the kids have a fun, safe experience. Sometimes both teams may be shorthanded and you can make the quarters even shorter. You can also break the quarters down even further – have them play 4 minutes, take a break, and play 4 more minutes. This will take about the same time as the regular ten minute quarters. At this age we want them to play. Hopefully the coaches are willing to work with us, be flexible, and help us achieve our goals. Refs should let us know of any unreasonable behavior they see on the part of coaches (like a team with 8 kids being unwilling to share with a team that has 3 players), but we still can’t insist they do something. Best wishes,

Our home email is out of order so I am sending you Taylor’s observations from my office. Taylor is on the phone with me now as I am typing this email.

Taylor liked the way that you worked in teaching the game and the rules with your job as a referee. For example, she noticed this when you stood on the field where the goalie box would be and told the girls to kick the ball and that the ball would have to pass where you stood before they could kick it.

She liked how you taught the girls the proper way to throw in the ball from the sidelines. If a girl made a mistake, you would show her what to do.

Taylor would like to know the circumstances when you stop time during the game. For instance, if someone were to get hurt and there was a delay of the game, would you stop time? What else might cause you to stop the clock?

Thanks for helping get this stage of the process finished, Mike. I hope you’ll be able to pass my comments on to Taylor. I do hope to compile all the Q&A before long, as the kids raised some excellent issues.

I’m glad Taylor ‘got’ the idea about teaching, communicating, and keeping the game going. Aside from safety, these are among the key things I’m trying to teach and preach. Also note, with respect to throw-ins, that I didn’t have a single throw-in redone across all 3 games I did. Most young refs make too big an issue of this and cause too much time to be wasted by having them redone. Use this ‘tool’ very sparingly!

Stopping the clock would be done rarely. In much the same way that we need to start games as near as possible to the ‘correct’ start time, we need to be mindful of finishing games in timely fashion. This mostly means keeping the quarter and half breaks to the required 2 and 5 minutes and will only happen on our say so. Coaches will talk and talk until we blow the whistle and tell them to get the players back on the field.

That said, if you are the last game on your field, there is some flexibility in stopping the clock for an injury in order to let the kids play their ‘full time’. I would only do this in case of an injury that required unusual time to get settled – more than a minute or two. Most injuries that do require game stoppage and coach intervention are relatively minor and take care of within a minute or 2. Something more serious that causes a more prolonged stoppage can be a good reason to stop the clock (actually to ‘add extra time’, in official terms) when you know other teams aren’t waiting to use the field after you. Best wishes,

How much time should the goalie have when they have the ball in the hands in the goalie box unitl they throw it

As you know, at a higher level, keepers have ‘about 6 seconds’ to get the ball back into play after a save. Remember that at third grade, while most kids have been playing for a year, this is the first season with goalkeepers (second grade doesn’t use them). Therefore most keepers will know little or nothing about what they can and can’t do. You remember the girl who roamed all over the area trying to grab the ball and then handled the ball way outside of the area. Keepers will make a save and then put the ball down, not realizing it’s a ‘live ball’. Keepers will try to toss the ball out, but think they have to do it like a throw-in, and on and on. All these things present us with teaching opportunities. We would almost never ‘call’ a keeper for holding the ball too long at this level. We should keep encouraging them to ‘get rid of it’. If problems continue, we may need to become more forceful in our approach – “C’mon keeper – get rid of it!”. If we have a moment, perhaps when another player is chasing a ball that left the field, we can explain to the keeper that they’re not allowed to hold the ball that long, or we can give a free kick to the other team. Remember that keepers change often, so these warnings, in whatever form, may have to be repeated quite a bit, but hopefully less and less as the season goes on. Best wishes,

Thank you for having the observation time yesterday. I like the way you explained everything to the girls. I have two questions. Why do they have to wear socks over their shin guards? If you’re not sure if it should be an indirect kick or a direct kick, what should you make it?

The rule about socks over shinguards is a rule/law throughout the soccer world. I don’t know if you’ve ever been whacked by a shinguard, but it’s no fun! The sock provides some protection so that when there is contact in that lower leg area (like if I kick you in the shin by accident), there is essentially 2 layers of sock for protection – the sock I’m wearing and the sock you’re wearing.

About the kicks, my first thing to say is that if you’ve read the stuff enough, you should be sure which it is. Any of the ten so-called ‘penal fouls’ results in a direct free kick. These are the usual things we think of as fouls: holding, tripping, pushing, handling the ball, etc. An indirect free kick (IFK) is awarded for things that are considered less serious, these are sometimes called ‘technical offenses’ and don’t involve the same type of action against an opponent. If you have that sheet I handed out, you’ll see an IFK is awarded for things like a keeper holding the ball for too long, impeding or obstructing an opponent, things like that. So if you know what you’re calling, and know your restarts, you should know what to ‘make it’. I will say that it’s unusual to have an IFK restart at second grade. This is partly because some of these violations involve the goalkeeper, and these don’t exist in second grade games. What you might see occasionally (I had one yesterday, in the second grade I think) is what is officially called ‘playing in a dangerous manner’ (known informally as ‘dangerous play’). This tends to involve, at this age, girls who fall down on the ground near the ball and make it impossible for others to make a fair play for the ball (they’re afraid they’ll kick the girl who’s down). Now if the girl is down because she was pushed or tripped, then that would be a foul – and a direct kick for her team. But if she just fell for other reasons (as they do often) and her being on the ground near the ball makes others unable to play for the ball, that’s playing in a dangerous manner, and an IFK for the other team from that spot. The ref indicates this by raising her arm over head until the ball touches another player (or goes out of play), then the arm is lowered. A goal can not be scored directly from an IFK – that’s why it has that name. Best wishes,

Dealing with Fouls:

1. If you notice that a player is limping and wasn’t limping before what should you do?

2. If a player keeps fowling other people and you have talked to her and the coach, and she doesn’t stop what should be done

If you see a player you suspect is injured, you can ask the player if she’s OK and go with that. If you have a real concern, or feel the player may not be giving you an honest answer, you can go to the coach and ask (or even insist, if you feel strongly enough) the player to be subbed out. Sometimes you can get a quick word with a player while play is going on, but usually something like this needs to wait for a stoppage. If you’re really concerned, you can blow the whistle to stop play and deal with it right then and there.

If calling fouls, talking to the player, talking to the coach doesn’t work, the next level is to inform player and coach that the player will have to sit out at the next foul. Try to be as specific as possible about what you mean, since if this happens (and it’s very rare) it’s usually because a young player doesn’t understand what is and isn’t OK. Hopefully you’ve been explaining as you go along and call fouls just what the fouls have been, hoping she will learn from that – but if she continues, we have to move to the next level. In theory, the final level would be to toss the kid from the game permanently, but it’s hard to imagine this needing to happen at second or third grade. Best wishes,

Thank you for doing the game today because watching someone else referee cleared up a lot of things for me. i was a first worried make the calls on fields with no markings, but i guess i didn’t realize how small the fields actually were (and how small the players were too). i also saw how you talked to them to teach them and you encouraged them. i do have a question about handbslls. you said to stop the game as little as posible, but if there is a handball, should you call it all the time, or only if it was really obvou

“Handball” (or what we officially call handling) is a bit different from other fouls in that we have to judge there was ‘deliberate’ hand-to-ball contact. Not a reflex, not protecting herself, not something she couldn’t have avoided, but deliberately ‘playing the ball’ with the hand. That said, it doesn’t have to be obvious to the whole world, just clear to you, in your judgment, that it was handling. While there are some things different about it, we still need to cal it when we see it, just like we need to call tripping, kicking, holding, etc. when we see it. Best wishes,

I was wondering about something. If one girl trips another, but it wasn’t intentional, and the girl gets right back up, would you call that as a fowl?

Remember that except for the foul of ‘handling the ball’, it’s not our job to judge whether an action is intentional or not. Most fouls at this age are not intentional. They are clumsy, careless, they don’t know, etc. But when we see fouls, they must be called. Just because the player gets right back up doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call it. It the player is tripped but doesn’t go down, then we have a decision to make, but any trip where the other player goes down should just about always be considered a tripping foul. Best wishes,

Difficult People

These next few deal with handling ‘difficult’ players, coaches, and fans.

What is the best way to handle a parent who disagrees with me?

Very good question – one that has come up in various ways from a few of the new refs. In fact, I’m going to ‘paste’ a response I wrote to another girl who asked about inappropriate behavior from either a parent or a coach. Please let me know if you’d like any further clarification. Best wishes,

First, we have to distinguish between parents and coaches. Parents first: the behavior of the people on the sidelines is the responsibility of the coaches. You certainly can ask a spectator (or spectators) to tone down or stop comments that are offensive, derogatory, or are meant to incite players (“push her back!”, for example). It is not easy for a young ref to confront adults in this way. You can ask a coach (or both coaches, since you may not know which ‘team’ the adult is from) to deal with this, saying that it isn’t allowed, it isn’t appropriate, and is making you (and possibly the players) uncomfortable and unable to do your job properly. Anything that gets to this level should be communicated to me and/or to other adults associated with NGS. We would want to know as much as possible about what happened, including what the coach or coaches did or didn’t do or say when they were approached. You do have the authority to tell the coaches that a game can’t continue if things keep up or if a particular person is not required to leave the immediate area. Anything of this serious a nature would be very rare indeed, and hopefully steps would be taken by the ref (and coaches if necessary) to allow the game to continue without such inappropriate behavior from spectators.

If a coach him or herself is a problem, again we have different steps/levels of action we can take. Aside from ignoring things, we can let the coach know that such words or actions are not allowed by NGS and are not acceptable. We can warn further that if anything continues, that coach will not be allowed to stay with the team for the rest of the game (or that the game will be terminated). We must of course take care of our own safety and not allow ourselves to be intimidated. You can ask the other coach, or other coaches on the yelling coach’s team, to intervene on your behalf. Don’t feel you have to go up to a screaming adult and tell him to be quiet. Again, if anything at all like this happens, NGS needs to know. That’s one reason it’s important for refs and teams to be at their assigned fields – otherwise we have trouble tracking down the correct person or persons.

I do want to add that while any inappropriate behavior by a coach or spectator is wrong, we, as referees, need to continually ask ourselves if we are doing the job we need to be doing in this particular game. While such inappropriate behavior is relatively uncommon, I think that a good 90% of it happens from a referee not doing enough to keep the game safe – that is, not calling clear fouls that jeopardize the safety of players. Sometimes people get upset for other reasons (or no reason at all we can figure out), but most of the time it should make us at least think carefully about how we are managing the game in terms of fouls and safety.

It was very interesting watching you ref a game and I learned a lot. The one question that I have it…Remember the incident when the one girl kicked the other girl and you told the girl that kicked that she should sit down for awhile and watch. How would you suggest that we handle a situation like that?

Thanks for getting back to me – that was probably the most unusual ‘incident’ of the afternoon, in terms of things you would not be likely to come across yourself (though we never know, of course!). Let’s think about what we saw, what we thought, what we did, what options we might have had – I first saw a ‘regular’ foul – I think it was pushing. Then, like I said to the group, I had a sense that something else happened that made it more than just a ‘simple’ foul. Had it been just the foul, I blow the whistle, restart with a direct free kick for the other team, and we’re rolling. But ‘something’ happened that made me think this player had lost (or was about to lose) her temper a bit and I felt it would be safer for her and the opponents for her to ‘cool off’ a bit. When this happens, it’s important to involve the coach – let him or her know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and that you need their cooperation for the sake of the safety of this game. Most are happy to comply and appreciate our stepping in before a situation gets worse. It’s when we don’t tell them what’s going on that they, not surprisingly, might get a little upset. No big speech needed, maybe something as simple as “Coach – I’m sure you’ll agree this player needs a little break” as you usher her off. Off she goes, we restart with the direct free kick I mentioned above, and off we go. Of course I wouldn’t expect a new ref to handle things exactly like I did. I was aware of this player from early in the game – she was playing on the edge of being out of control, seemed to be taking things too seriously – so even though I didn’t clearly see the ‘extra thing’ she did after the foul, I felt it wasn’t good and that the game would be better served by her having a break. If we feel we need to do this and a coach doesn’t seem to ‘get it’ or to comply, we may need to make things even clearer – “Coach: I’d hate for you to lose this player for the rest of the game – I really want you to give her a break now.” If we really need to, it can be something like, “Coach, I won’t restart the game with this player on the field – please give her a break and don’t send her back on until she’s calmed down.” But please note, that in about a zillion games, I’ve never had to resort to this ‘level’ of intervention with a coach. And like with other things, if you feel a coach is just not acting in an appropriate manner, inform me (and/or someone in some authority within NGS) about it. Best wishes,

My only question is what do you do if a player in 2nd or 3rd grade is being very rude to the ref. from Nathan Matzka

Good question (and the first one to send one in!). As we discussed at the clinic, there are different ‘levels’ of response we have available for this kind of thing. We can ignore it, we can talk to the player quietly and gently, we can talk to the player more sternly (perhaps with a ‘warning’), we can talk to the coach, we can talk to the coach with a warning, we can tell the coach the player must take a break, we can tell the coach the player is not allowed to play any more.

What you decide to do, and when, depends on a number of factors. You don’t have to go ‘up the ladder’ each time something happens. You may feel something is so inappropriate it needs to be dealt with more harshly immediately. These are a matter of experience and ‘feel’. I will say this kind of thing is unusual at this age level, though we do come across youngsters who clearly have ‘issues’, some of which they seem to bring onto the soccer field with them. Sometimes a coach will give us a heads-up that he has a player who can be a problem. Sometimes we can recognize this, and sometimes a kind word can help bring a player onto our side. But the bottom line is that players need to know that certain behavior is not acceptable on the field. Foul play we deal with by calling fouls and going ‘up the ladder’ from there (though not with cards); foul mouths we deal with by the methods discussed above. Take care,

Is the coach allowed to come on the field? On two accounts I saw the coach come onto the field, once to tie a shoe, and another to position her players, is this allowed?

This is one of many areas where we need to be flexible and we need to make allowances for brand new players early in a season. By the most ‘official’ rules, as you probably know, the coach should only come onto the field if called on by the ref, like to check on an injury. For our purposes, however, with the youngest players, we need to allow some of what you refer to. Now we certainly need to put limits on this – they can’t be coming out every time they sub to reposition players, etc. and they can’t come on the field to complain to us about a call (or a non-call), but early in the season (remember that most of these kids haven’t even had a chance to meet for practice yet this season) we need to make some allowances, within reason, as long as the game isn’t unduly held up. In the case of the shoe-tying, it probably helped get things moving even quicker! Best wishes,

One thing that I learned on Saturday was that if a kid was getting upset to tell her to sit out for a little until she was ready to come back in. Also, I learned that I shouldn’t talk to the coach in the middle of the game if they ask me a question. I should tell them that I will talk to them after the game.

Good points – both these situations need to be handled carefully and of course take experience. We don’t want players out on the field who are clearly not able to function properly. At the same time, kids need to learn to deal with the ups and downs (both literally and figuratively) that are a part of soccer (and most other aspects of life as well).

In terms of the coach, sometimes a quick word or 2 will be satisfactory, but we can’t be giving a rules clinic every time something happens that a coach doesn’t understand. Best wishes,

I was at the reffing clininc on Saturday. I have two questions, one related to the course, and one not. First, what should a ref do if parents are yelling at the ref? I saw some parents cheering their kids on, but what if it gets too competitive?

Last season, a coach got ejected from one of my games, what does the coach have to do to make that happen? My second question regards soccer in general. At my last game, we lost 3-2, but we should’ve tied because the ref made a bad call regarding a goal. Our keeper had just made an amazing save, and it was close to the goal line. The official rules state that the ball must completly cross the line to be counted as a goal, right? I was playing defense, I was right next to the goalie, and she had it in her hands and maybe a quarter of the ball was on the line, the ball didn’t cross, but the ref said it was a goal, even when some of our players told him that it hadn’t crossed the line. Should it have counted as a goal? The ref was clearly wrong, and he lost the game because of his bad judgment, I don’t think that it’s fair.

Excellent questions – neither of which has an easy or short answer. We’ll try each one in turn:

First question, we have to distinguish between parents and coaches. Parents first: the behavior of the people on the sidelines is the responsibility of the coaches. You certainly can ask a spectator (or spectators) to tone down or stop comments that are offensive, derogatory, or are meant to incite players (“push her back!”, for example). It is not easy for a young ref to confront adults in this way. You can ask a coach (or both coaches, since you may not know which ‘team’ the adult is from) to deal with this, saying that it isn’t allowed, it isn’t appropriate, and is making you (and possibly the players) uncomfortable and unable to do your job properly. Anything that gets to this level should be communicated to me and/or to other adults associated with NGS. We would want to know as much as possible about what happened, including what the coach or coaches did or didn’t do or say when they were approached. You do have the authority to tell the coaches that a game can’t continue if things keep up or if a particular person is not required to leave the immediate area. Anything of this serious a nature would be very rare indeed, and hopefully steps would be taken by the ref (and coaches if necessary) to allow the game to continue without such inappropriate behavior from spectators.

If a coach him or herself is a problem, again we have different steps/levels of action we can take. Aside from ignoring things, we can let the coach know that such words or actions are not allowed by NGS and are not acceptable. We can warn further that if anything continues, that coach will not be allowed to stay with the team for the rest of the game (or that the game will be terminated). We must of course take care of our own safety and not allow ourselves to be intimidated. You can ask the other coach, or other coaches on the yelling coach’s team, to intervene on your behalf. Don’t feel you have to go up to a screaming adult and tell him to be quiet. Again, if anything at all like this happens, NGS needs to know. That’s one reason it’s important for refs and teams to be at their assigned fields – otherwise we have trouble tracking down the correct person or persons.

do want to add that while any inappropriate behavior by a coach or spectator is wrong, we, as referees, need to continually ask ourselves if we are doing the job we need to be doing in this particular game. While such inappropriate behavior is relatively uncommon, I think that a good 90% of it happens from a referee not doing enough to keep the game safe – that is, not calling clear fouls that jeopardize the safety of players. Sometimes people get upset for other reasons (or no reason at all we can figure out), but most of the time it should make us at least think carefully about how we are managing the game in terms of fouls and safety.

 

On the second question, the quick answer is that the referee’s decision – good or bad, right or wrong – when it is a matter of judgment (goal or no goal? foul or not a foul?) is final and not subject to official protest. That may be unfair, those are the breaks. We make hundreds of judgment calls each game and not all will be correct. Some will be incorrect and may even cause a game to be (unfairly) won or lost. Again – it’s a shame, but these things happen. Now if a ref makes a different kind of error – say he awards a penalty kick for a foul that happened way out of the penalty area, or if he allowed a goal when it was an indirect free kick restart – this is a misapplication of the Laws of the Game and could be subject to protest by a coach.

 

The bigger question for us referees is how do we avoid (or at least cut down on) each of these kinds of errors? Judgment errors can be minimized in two main ways. One is by hustling to be in the best position as possible as much of the time as possible. Assuming your ref knew, as you do, that the entire ball must be across the goal line to count, maybe he was too far away to get a good look. The other way is through a combination of experience and continued learning and mentoring. Be critical of yourself after every game: ‘What could I have done better?’ Ask other refs to watch you work and get feedback from them; what things do you need to work on?

 

Misapplication of Law errors can be minimized by knowing the rules/laws as well as possible. Go over and review things before you have a game. Keep yourself in shape, including adequate rest and water, and constantly work to ‘keep your head in the game’. Don’t be lulled into sleepwalking because it seems like an easy game or an easy few moments. Critical things and decision points can happen at any time. Don’t be overly hasty to make a call. If the ball goes out of play think to be sure you have the correct restart – throw-in for which team? Goal kick or corner kick? If you see an action on the field that’s possibly a foul, you have a second (which is kind of a long time) to judge whether it is a foul or not. Same with a ball by the goal line. If it’s really close, you can take a second to make a good judgment and then make whatever decision you need to make.

I wanted to know if they have to have goalies or if it is a choice. And if they decide to have a goalie can they use their hands?

Did you see goalies at second grade? No goalies, not an option, so of course no hands. Third grade, which is 5v5, has goalies.

Is the coach allowed to sub as much as the person did on Saturday.

There is, in theory, unlimited substitutions, as long as it happens at appropriate stoppages. Coaches have various ways of handling their subbing patterns. I didn’t think anything was excessive or too out of the ordinary on Saturday, but this could happen, though at this age it would be out of ignorance, not out of any ‘strategy’. If a ref did feel the game was being too bogged down by subbing every minute that wasted time, she should let me, or someone in NGS, know this and that coach probably needs a bit of guidance. This is not something a young ref should confront a coach about. What all refs to need to do is be sure the rules about subbing are adhered to – that they are allowed after any stoppage when the ball has left the field and the coach should get our permission before subbing. We can help this process by looking over to the sidelines at subbing opportunities, especially when we recognize that there haven’t been any subs in a while.

If the coach has a question like she did can you answer it if it is the last game of the day because it won’t run interfere with the other games or should you answer them after the game?

Whether the last game or not, if it is something that can be answered with a few words, you may be able to handle it at the moment, but we don’t want to encourage coaches taking up game time to learn the rules themselves. In general, it’s usually better to tell the coach ‘we’ll go over this after the game’ (or at the half), and then be sure to do do.

Should you have them tap their shin guards when you’re checking for jewelery and if they don’t have socks can they play?

I assume at the game you saw there was one (or more) girl who did not have socks over shinguards. What did I do? I told them that socks must be over shinguards in order to play. Not merely covered with long pants – it MUST be socks over shinguards. Just like no jewelry or hard flappy stuff in the hair that could be dangerous to a player, this rule must be enforced. If we’re consistent about this, they’ll get the idea quickly. If we start to make exceptions, we’ll have problems the rest of the season as well as subsequent seasons (The ref last week (or last year) let me play this way”). Don’t be ‘that ref’. Be the kind of ref you’re being trained to be and you’ll help make games easier and smoother for everyone! Best wishes,