The Pros and Cons of Consistency

The Pros and Cons of Consistency, November 2012

NISOA Nuts and Bolts Column

By: Bob Sumpter, NISOA


Consistency is considered one of the most desired characteristics required for a successful intercollegiate or interscholastic soccer referee. It is considered a hallmark of professional performance for us in NISOA to achieve, both individually and as a professional development organization. In this short article we‘ll address the goal of individual consistency of game performance.

There are many aspects of consistency in soccer refereeing. What follows are a number of thoughts for you to consider in your quest for personal excellence in the game. While this list is not exhaustive, it should get you thinking about what your own experiences on the field have taught you about this important matter.

Discretionary Decision-Making

It seems to me that complete consistency is a goal in many ways. Certainly consistency in discretionary decision-making is probably the most asked for quality of refereeing by the participants and institutions for who NISOA Referees officiate.

As one example, consistent attention to and concern about participant safety is critical. In case of a possible injury, a quick evaluation and decision should always be a goal for the Referee Team in every incident.

Also, as concerns discretionary decision-making, your reaction to an incident which involves such actions as: overly aggressive contact, deliberate physical play against an opponent, an attempt to “take out” an opponent, repeated or serial foul play, open confrontation with Referee Team members, and similar actions that you could easily cite from your own experience, should be addressed consistently in a timely, firm, yet calm and objective manner. Consistent reaction will not only correct the immediate act, but help avoid any trend towards other similar unacceptable acts.


A consistently demonstrated calm, steady, professional manner throughout the game is a must. It is essential to your achieving and maintaining control over other participants who may well be caught up in the emotions of play and need to be encouraged to behave in a sportsman-like manner.

Demonstrated objectivity towards both teams and all participants, regardless of their demeanor, is a must. The slightest unintended show of a possible favoritism or difference in treatment of an offending participant can ruin the chances for a well-controlled game.


NISOA sets consistent dress standards for its members. All Referee Team members display a professional and team-like strength when all adhere to the required standards. This consistency also helps display the concept of the assigned game officials as a “Referee Team”, as you function as a third team on the field in that game.

Rules Enforcement

Your consistent adherence to the College and High School Rules underscores your authority and ability to deal with any game situation that might arise. An unauthorized deviation from any rule, once done, can ruin your ability to enforce any of the remaining rules in that game. The Referee Team commitment to enforcing the authorized rules of the game must be complete in order to achieve success in that contest.


When seeking consistency in refereeing, there are instances where some discretionary adjustment might be possible. Mechanics are not completely rigid, but do allow for some sensible deviation when required. In general, the closer (and more consistent) you follow the published NISOA guidelines for the various systems of control that the college and high school rules authorize, the stronger your game performance will be. The positions, patterns of movement, and division of duties for the Referee Team members are fully effective when performed as specified. That said, the mechanics recognize the fact that at some critical circumstance a discretionary deviation may be needed to take care of a specific incident or challenge.

As one example, if there is a particular player behavior which needs to be monitored more closely, it makes sense to move off a prescribed pattern of movement to be close enough to the player so that your instant reaction to misbehavior can be both timely and “on-site” in order to emphasize your oversight to the player involved. That’s why the oft-repeated phrase “presence lends conviction” originated and shared among referees.. This type of short-lived deviation is NOT to say that you need to do so for every instance, but is meant to be used when needed for improved behavior control over participant(s) by making your presence, and possible penal consequences for unacceptable behavior, known.

Another example is the suggestion that your pre-game briefing of the Referee Team include guidelines to the ARs and AO for entering the field to provide help when a particularly dangerous behavior problem arises. Certainly in top-level competitive play this is a wise precaution and has shown to be effective when used properly, and is not over-done.


This short article only cites five aspects of consistency to be considered by the Referee who seeks to improve personal performance: (1) discretionary decision-making, (2) demeanor, (3) appearance, (4) rules enforcement, and (5) mechanics.

The article suggests the some ways each should be considered when deciding how rigidly to employ the concept of consistency. There are obviously many more aspects that could be cited and discussed. In developing your approach to managing a soccer game, make sure you have tried to identify as many ways that consistency applies in your performance, and that you have thought out an over-all approach to its application in your officiating. This kind of thoughtful consideration will make you a better Referee.