The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” 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 sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.  This month’s article will focus on taunting and its impact on the game.

Taunting is defined as sarcastic challenge or insult;  to reproach or challenge in a mocking or insulting manner.  Taunting is not part of the intercollegiate or interscholastic game and must be dealt with by the referee.  If not retaliation is very likely and the loss of game control is a strong possibility.  Taunting is an act of disrespect toward the opponent and a deliberate attempt to belittle players, coaches, bench personnel and fans.

Section 5 of Rule 12 of the NCAA Rule Book provides reasons for cautioning a player.  12.5.5 indicates that “engaging in other acts of unsporting behavior, including taunting, excessive celebration, simulating a foul, exaggerating an injury, baiting, substituting illegally, or ridiculing another player, bench personnel, officials or spectators” are all offences that warrant a caution  12.3.7 indicates that a player is to be ejected if he/she engages in hostile or abusive language or harassment that refers to race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin or other abusive, threatening or obscene language, behavior or conduct.

The NFHS Soccer Rules indicate in Rule 12 Section 8 Article 1.f.4 indicates that deliberate verbal tactics shall result in a caution.  In Article 2.f a player is to be ejected for using insulting, offensive or abusive language or gesture.

Both the NCAA and the NFHS take the matter of taunting very serious and do not want it in the game of soccer.  The players represent the institution/school and their behavior is a reflection on that institution or school.

When taunting occurs the referee must stop the clock and the game and deal with it appropriately.  The player must be cautioned or ejected as required by the rule and the referee should explain to the player that this type of behavior is not part of the game.  It may even be necessary to let the coach know the specifics for the caution/ejection so that he/she may also deal with the player and prevent future occurrences.  This approach also lets the opponents know that the situation has been dealt with and retaliation is not necessary.

Some states are taking legislative action to deal with taunting at the intercollegiate and interscholastic level.  This is part of the state’s overall anti-bullying law for schools.

Participants could be in trouble if they make harassing statements related to gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or religion. Referees would also be required to report incidents for possible further investigation.  Athletes who talk trash could find their teams penalized and themselves under investigation by the state Civil Rights Division.

Respectful behavior for opponents, coaches, spectators and officials is a must in intercollegiate and interscholastic soccer.  It is imperative that all referees take this matter seriously and deal with any potential situations.