Comments Can Haunt

Published on February 3, 2011


by:  John Van de Vaarst,  National Clinician

Often times comments that seem innocent when they are made can come back to haunt an official.  It is imperative that officials always remain professional and are careful with their choice of words.  A very wise person once said that “man has two ears and one mouth, so he should listen twice as much as he speaks.”  Before making any comment to game participants referees should listen to themselves in their mind and determine if there is a potential for the next words to come back and haunt.

An example of what seemed to be an innocent comment during a coin toss later became an issue with the athletic director, coach, assignor and the local chapter.  The referee made the comment to the captains “let’s settle this in regulation.”  Late in the game the referee made a call that was controversial and the restart resulted in the winning goal.  The loosing coach and school administration felt the call was biased because the official made the comment during the coin toss and wanted to live up to the words.

Another example is “there will be no tie this afternoon because I have a night game.”  This comment creates several problems.  The first question by the coaches is “will this official focus on the game or be thinking about getting to the next game on time?”  Will the official give it 100% mentally and physically or will they be “saving” themselves for the next game?  Any close call will be questioned because the offending team will remember the comment and feel the call was made to help decide the result of the game.   The worst case scenario after this comment is that there was a delay in the game for an injury and the game is running long.  The score is tied and there are only a minute plus left in regulation time.   The attacking team crosses the ball and there is contact in the penalty area and the referee awards a penalty kick.  This could be the best decision the referee ever made in a game but it will not be accepted because of the comment made during the coin toss.

There have been numerous articles that speak to the issue of officials making threats to players and coaches.  For example, “If you do that again you are going to be ejected.”  Later a similar situation occurs and the referee does not eject the offending individual.  Now the referee has lost credibility because of the comment made earlier even though the situation is different.  This does not help with overall game control.

Comments made to coaches can create additional problems.  “I know you have a physical team…. I am not going to allow foul play today.”  Every call made against that team for the entire game will be questioned because of this comment made before the game.

The moral to this article is that officials need to watch what they say before, during and after the game to players, coaches, school administrators, spectators and fellow officials.  A comment perceived to be improper will always come back to haunt you.

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