A coach’s tirade

I’m going to write a longer post on refereeing soon, but wanted to comment on one of my games this weekend (I was one of the two Assistant Referees (AR), on the team benches’ side of the field). The game was a U18G ECNL game, one of the most elite girls games in the country.

The game went reasonably well until the last 25 or so minutes when the game became more physical as both teams pushed hard to score. It was a 1:0 game at this point.

The coach for one of the teams became very upset with the referee crew for, in his mind, questionable calls, lack of yellow card cautions, and disagreement between the Center Referee (CR) and the Assistant Referee (who was on the parents’ side of the field) regarding a possible penalty kick. After an unusually long discussion between the CR and the AR the decision went against this coach. But to be clear, this penalty incident wasn’t the trigger for the coach’s negativity – it started before that.

I’m not going to repeat his tirade, but rest assured that he was very upset for the entirety of the last ~25 minutes of the game. And it continued after the game was over. By the way, this coach’s team won 1:0.

Did the coach have some valid points? Maybe, but we’d have to watch a recording of the game to be sure. And even if the coach has some valid points there is the issue of if, when, and how to deliver those points.

But what I can say for sure is that this CR is one of the most organized, respectful, and committed referees I have come across. His demeanor, his body language, the way he organizes the player check-in process (with a clipboard!), his professional appearance (including color-matched pens to go with the color of his jersey), the way he talks to the players and coaches (including apologizing for the delay caused by the penalty kick discussion), and the way he interacts with other referees is exemplary. Probably the most polite referee I have come across. Note also that he gave the girls a water break half way through each half because we were dealing with 90+ degree temperatures.

You can now also probably see why the penalty discussion between him and the AR took longer than usual – he wanted to get the decision right. Getting it right was more important to him than the way this situation might look to folks watching.

I also know for a fact that he is definitely not doing this for the $40 he gets paid for the game. He doesn’t need the money. And note that his son stopped playing the game a couple of years ago because he lost interest. But this referee enjoys the game and decided to keep helping out in our soccer community. He took many hours out of his Sunday afternoon/evening schedule to officiate games, and please keep in mind that there is a big shortage of referees – more on this in my post on refereeing soon.

Should referees ideally be better? Yes. Do referees make mistakes? Yes – sometimes quite a few. But I can tell you that this kind of tirade from coaches and the negative atmosphere it creates also between players and referees (and between the opposing coaches and the opposing players) is emotionally draining on referees that are out there volunteering to make sure games can take place (and for many referees this would be game 4 or 5 that day, with ~90 degree temperatures). Especially for a referee like the CR for this game who truly cares about the players and the game and is genuinely trying to do his best.

For the good of the game, this coach’s tirade wasn’t acceptable.

P.S.: I will also soon write a post about the life of a coach. They don’t have it easy!

Author: James

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

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