Interscholastic Officials’ Code of Ethics

Published on August 11, 2016


By:  John Van de Vaarst – National clinician

Included in the NFHS Soccer Rules Book is a Code of Ethics for all interscholastic officials.  The purpose of this Code is to establish guidelines for ethical standards of conduct.  Officials at interscholastic events are participants in the education of the students that are participating in the event and observing the game.   This article will summarize the code of ethics and remind officials of their duties and responsibilities.

Being a student of the rules and the mechanics of officiating is the focus of the first code.  In addition, the code indicates that officials are impartial, firm and maintains composure.   NFHS officials must be students of the rules.  Continual study of the rule book, attendance at clinics, discussing unique plays, will all help increase knowledge.  Also, officials must maintain their composure no matter what the situation might be during a game.  Players’ and coaches’ emotions can run high.  It is imperative that officials remain calm when dealing with highly stressful situations.

Officials are to work with each other and the state association in a cooperative manner.  Officials should accept all assignments and work with their partners in a professional manner.  Officials who think they are better than others usually have problems during the season.  A professional approach to every game should be the norm.

“Officials shall uphold the honor and dignity of the profession in all interaction with student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, school administrators, colleagues and the public.”  This type of behavior must be before, during and after the game.  No matter what the circumstance and what is being said to officials, calmness and professionalism must be the norm.  A good tip when leaving the field is not to even acknowledge a fan’s comments.

Being prepared mentally and physically, dressing neatly and acting in a manner that establishes high standards is the next code.  Soccer officials must train prior to the season so they are prepared for the physical requirements of covering the field for the entire game.  Also, officials should refrain from accepting too many assignments so they are not fatigued and less prepared.   Also, officials must leave any “excess baggage” behind when entering the field.   The problems at work or other situations must be eliminated so the officials can be mentally prepared to officiate for the entire game.

Arriving on time, being punctual, is the focus of the next code.  Officials should try to arrive as soon as possible for a game and no later than 15 minutes before game time.  Arriving at the last minute places undue stress on the coaches, fellow officials and school administration.  It is better to be early and have sufficient time to complete all pregame responsibilities without any unnecessary stress.

Student – athletes and coaches are influenced by officials’ behavior.  Officials who lose their composure or act in a manner that is less than acceptable have an impact on all other officials that are involved with the specific teams.

Safety of all individuals involved in the soccer game is critical for all officials.  Officials should notify the coaches or school administrators of any situation that may appear unreasonably hazardous.  A game should never begin if the field of play is dangerous or portable goals are not anchored.  Also, if a player(s) is acting in a manner that can result in injury to another player or him/herself, the officials should deal with this quickly and professionally.

The next Code deals with being educated in the recognition of emergency conditions.  This includes many different potential situations.  First if a player appears to have the symptoms of a concussion, the officials should stop the game and have the player removed from the field.   The second is if a player appears to be seriously injured.  The officials should stop the game and allow the player to be treated.  Lightning and storms is another area of concern.  If there is lightning in the area, the officials should suspend the game and follow the protocol as outlined in the NFHS Soccer Rules Book.

The final Code focuses on social media.  All officials must maintain an ethical approach when using any social media forum.  Officials must never criticize other officials, coaches, players, teams or spectators in social media.  It is better not to post any information about a game or situation than post something that could create problems for the officials.

The NFHS Officials’ Code of Ethics is important to all officials.  It is part of the rule book and should be studied just like the other rules.

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