The Challenge of the Competitive Game, Part 2

The Challenge of the Competitive Game, Part 2 (March 2013)

By Bob Sumpter, NISOA


This is the second in a three-part series about the Challenge of the Competitive Game for the monthly NISOA Nuts and Bolts Column. Part 1 covered suggestions about: (1) A Serious Attitude, (2) Speed, and (3) Intensity. This Part 2 covers suggestions about (4) Competitiveness, (5) Integrity, (6) Players, and (7) Spectators.

(4) Competitiveness

Players, coaches, and other team personnel seek every edge in their dealing with the game. Most of their actions are professional in that they seek to win through superior team and individual skills. Yet, they will often automatically protest obvious fouls called against their team knowing the protests have no basis. They will often automatically signal for possession as every ball goes out of play off the field in an attempt to get the referee team decision to go for their team, not really knowing whether or not possession should be for their team. They will almost automatically aggressively protest any penalty kick awarded against their team while not really knowing if the call was correct. Their protests will often include intimidating or disparaging comments about the referee team, or include demeaning gestures towards the referee team.

The referee team must execute their important task to remain fair, objective, and uninvolved on a personal basis in decisions or actions they take during the game. Referee team actions should reflect their objectivity and be apparent to all. Under no circumstances should any bias be given or exhibited toward either team. That would include those instances (which do occur) where the referee incorrectly feels an overly harsh action taken against one team might require that it should be corrected by taking an “equalizing” action later on. This is never to be done! Your personal ethics should never be set aside in enforcing the rules of the game.

(5) Integrity

A referee is often described as the “Guardian of the Game”. What that encompasses is that all of his/her actions are based on complete integrity, fairness, objectivity, and (very importantly) courage. Each decision is honest and objective, regardless of whether a straight yes/no determination, or a discretionary decision. A card is as appropriate in the first minute of a game as at any other time. The incident and the integrity of the referee who makes the discretionary judgment govern whether an action is needed. Penalizing is never done to “get someone” or to “even up a past mistake”. The integrity of the referee becomes the integrity of that game.

(6) Players

Players in both the college and high school games are student-athletes. They represent the educational institution who sponsors their team and activities. Nowadays many are attending school on sports-related scholarships, and are therefore motivated to seek a highly skilled and successful record in their games. Since school sports programs involve regular practice to improve team and individual skills, the players are highly trained to play at a very competitive level. Student-athletes can usually be considered to know what they are doing, or trying to do, at all times, and should be treated with that understanding in a professional, respectful, and firm manner when correction is needed.

In addition, their competitive level and abilities usually mean that they are willing to take more physical contact than might be expected at other levels, and also to execute more physical contact against opponents than in less competitive games. However, all these players are concerned about being protected from unfair play, not wanting it to be allowed, especially those actions that may lead to injury. Their expectations of the referee team include referee team alertness to dangerous types of unfair play, and immediate and firm action to prevent and correct it. The referee team might also be expected to avoid, whenever possible, stopping play for minor infractions, while paying special attention to the prospect of using the advantage call when it properly applies.

(7) Spectators

The number of spectators attending and enjoying college and high school soccer games is on an upswing. Of course, most come to support one side or the other. That means they seek the experience of seeing good goals made, bad goals denied, and to see their team win. They are owed a well played, and exciting game with as little unsporting incidents as possible and the proper conduct of all participants assured by the referee team actions. Continuous action with a minimum of stoppages helps. Tactical delays during the game should be handled promptly and firmly with a full game played with as little unnecessary delays as one referee team objective. The goal is to foster continuous action with a minimum of delay


This completes Part 2 of the discussion of suggestions about improving your ability to handle competitive games. Four additional subject areas have been presented. We hope you have identified at least one suggestion in each of the four areas discussed that will be of value to your refereeing. This three-part series will be continued next month.