Coaches and Referees Must Have Mutual Respect
Each has a job to do. Coaches must coach and referees must ref. It is a symbiotic relationship. For the first time at the AGM, coaches and referees came together in a seminar aimed to promote discussion, respect and ways to potentially help your team.
There was much productive discussion and interaction, proving that each person in the room saw things differently. It was agreed that if we all sat watching a game in a stadium from different positions, we would all see things in a different light.
So what can we do? We looked at three periods of interaction; before the game, during the game and after the game.
Firstly, a club, along with their coach, must communicate with his or her parents at a pre-season meeting that badgering a referee is unacceptable and will not help decisions made by the referee. As a coach, I learned a long time ago that once a ref makes a decision, they are not going to change their mind — so why waste time and energy shouting?
Indeed, hounding the ref will almost certainly not help your team. Coaches are role models and their behavior on the sideline can undoubtedly influence their players and team parents. We must be careful and cognizant of that! OYSA Nike Girls Coach of the Year, Jim Murrell, had both his players AND parents complete a code of conduct form, which was designed to help educate them about respect. Some other successful OYSA clubs do this too.
On the day of the game, prior to kick-off, both the coaches and the referees should attempt to greet each other at an appropriate time and introduce themselves. If either has a dubious history with one another, then it would be good to shake hands and agree that it is a new day and to start fresh with each otherís opinions and try to have an uneventful game. In addition, a coach can politely indicate if the two teams have played recently (or if they have a scouting report) and if there is anything or anyone on the team that the referees might want to keep an eye on. Doing this politely before the game has helped my teams many times.
Participants in the workshop discussion agreed that all too often the ego of a coach or referee got in the way of a good game. We must work to prevent this. In the words of US Youth Soccer, it is the game for all kids. As coaches and referees we must remember that and attempt not to take over or try and own the game. The majority of spectators agree that the best games are ones where you donít remember the referee or you donít hear the coach!
Coaches can also have their team trained to be respectful and organized for the referees when players need to check in. Referees can also be aware that they should ask coaches a few minutes in advance to call their players in at an appropriate time to interrupt warm-up.
During the game, how can a coach modify their behavior to be more respectful and help their team? First, by realizing that 90 percent of a message is non-verbal. The body language of the coach or person saying something comes across much more strongly than most of us believe. Coaches must minimize their own frustrations and stop throwing their hands up or burying their head in their hands. These messages are incredibly strong ones to both referees and players. Many coaches forget that!
Please know that a new directive about throwing your clipboard, or kicking your bench, bag or water bottle will have you sent off by the ref. I saw it happen at Far West Regionals last summer, at a game I was scouting for the Westside Metros Internationals coaching staff.
Direct your team captains to converse politely with the ref and ask questions about calls on your behalf. When you feel the need to call the ref, do so in the right tone and remember that he or she will not reverse their decision, regardless of how worked up you are! If you must ask, one can respectfully ask what the call was for and, when answered, could simply say that you did not see it like that. Also, remember to pick your battles … some (maybe many) decisions are not worth becoming frustrated and arguing about. Some top-level coaches are adamant that their sideline behavior directly mirrors their teamís performance. If you show that you are nervous or frustrated, then your team may play like that!
I have also successfully gotten a point across to the referee crew at half time by approaching them and telling them that they are having a good game, but politely requesting if, in the second half, they could keep an eye on something specific I had observed in the first half.
Once the game is done, coaches should always direct their players to shake the referees' hands, and then do so themselves. This is in the spirit of promoting respect and fair play. Also, you never know when they will referee your team again! Both referees and coaches should also take notes and, once calmed from the emotion of the game, fairly fill out their respective game forms for feedback.
There is also an excellent set of interactive resources about respect on the English Football Association website. There are video clips of a parent and son before and during a youth game. Some of the examples may seem exaggerated, but we have all seen them happen at youth games here in our state. Following the entertaining clips, there are interviews with the referee, coach, parent and player. It is very insightful to see their opinions following the game. We can all learn from this and clubs may want to utilize this resource for the parents of all the players in their clubs! You can find it at http://www.thefa.com/respectguide/.
In conclusion, clubs should integrate respect into the very fabric of their club, by educating coaches, players and parents. One easy way to make this happen would be to make a form web-based, have them go online and answer a question or two on the FA respect videos, then sign a code of conduct form. Something to think about, but at the same time, both coaches and referees must become better at managing games.
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