Referee Nuts and Bolts – February 2011

Published on February 2, 2011


by:  John Van de Vaarst

Volume 21 – February 2011

This monthly column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those basic techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are often forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing.  The short discussions and accompanying tips stress important advice for competent performance.

This month’s articles focus on the hardest calls and how to blow a call gracefully.

Hardest Calls

During the course of a game a referee is likely to be faced with many difficult calls.  There are many pressures and conditions which combine to influence  the calls made or not made.  In almost every game there is a “moment of truth” when the official has to make a decision on a critical play.  These usually occur when the score is close and the game is hard fought; it is late in the game; spectators are very involved in the game; the visiting team is attacking and threatening to score.  The hardest calls are not necessarily the most difficult technically but the decision could have an impact on the game overall. Fouls that occur in the middle of the field are not usually hard to call however when the same foul occurs in the home team penalty  area in a close game, the call becomes difficult.  An example is the goalkeeper picks up the ball and the attacker veers off at the last moment to avoid making contact.   The goalkeeper throws a forearm at the attacker and misses.  How does the referee rule?   The home coach is upset about a referee decision(s) and disputes to the point of disrupting the game.  The referee attempts to talk to the coach but the problem escalates, and a caution is issued.  The coach continues to create problems with game control through his/her comments.  Do you eject?   Let’s take this one a little further.  The referee decides to eject the home coach and the coach refuses to leave the field and prolongs the argument.  Do you forfeit the game?

When preparing for the game a referee should consider the following to assist in making the hard calls:

  • My integrity is the only thing I own which cannot be replaced once lost.
  • I must work each game so that my performance satisfies me.  This includes self-evaluation.
  • What is the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the game?

Referees must not allow the various pressures of the game to impact their performance.  This includes being concerned about future assignments, ratings, assigner recognition, and the outcome of the game.  Impartiality is critical to success no matter what the outcome.

There are no answers that can apply to every situation.  Each referee must be prepared mentally and physically before entering the field.  Long term success will occur if the referee ensures their respect and integrity are paramount.

How To Blow a Call Gracefully

Since everyone that officiates a game is human, there will always be a chance for an error(s) made when making a call.  When a referee realizes they have “blown the call” various problems may occur.  The official may lose composure and confidence because the they cannot get over the mistake.  Players may begin to lose respect of the referee because of the error and thus more severe fouling may begin or dissent become more prevalent.   Also “bad calls” are remembered and the image of the official is tarnished.

If a referee blows a call they should learn from it.  Once a mistake is made it will stay in the referee’s mind for a long time.  Be willing to acknowledge that a mistake was made.  Do not try to balance one bad call with another to make up for it.  This will only make matters worse.  Do not let a mistake throw you off for the rest of the game.  A good official can rise above a mistake and continue with strong game control.  If you make a mistake do not let a coach or player belittle your skills.  Acknowledge the problem and gain control of the game.  Remember, know your mistakes, work to improve them and your knowledge of the rules, and work on being consistent on judgment calls.  Two ways to make a mistake more acceptable is (1) be in position, remember presence leads conviction and (2) illustrate your authority in a professional way throughout the game.

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