Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 24414

Law 6 - Assistant Referee 12/12/2010

RE: mostly rec and competitive Under 15

Julie of San Jose, California USA asks...

Bad calls and bad parents experience from a fairly new referee
Today I was Assistant Referee for a BU12 game at the CYSA Founders Cup. Now, I am a fairly new referee (this is only my second season) but I was feeling pretty confident about myself before the start of the match. I volunteered to take the parents side, as I am normally really good with people. This game completely changed my self-perception.
During the first couple of minutes, there were some throw-ins in which I admit I did not have the best view of the ball. In this case, as discussed in the pre-game conference, I looked at my center referee for aid, then compliantly signaled towards his indicated side. This is when t he parents began making comments about my signals, saying that I was inexperienced and blind. I ignored these comments and kept assisting.
After about 10 minutes, there was an apparent goal scored. I say apparent because from the parents (and my) angle, it seemed as though the ball went in and came out of the net. The center went to discuss with the lead AR, and decided it was not a goal. This brought mean remarks from the parents (I wasn't doing my job, why didn't I call it?, why was I here for? ).
By now, I was feeling really sensitive and down. I kept playing, but the remarks kept coming (about offside etc,). Eventually, I am not proud to admit, I found myself in tears. I kept trying to calm the parents down while doing my job. The center had already warned many individual parents for their remarks, but instead of shouting at me, they cleverly talked loud enough so I could hear and be considered as eavesdropping. At one point, I turned to tell a parent something, and when I looked back, I saw a player receive a ball from an offside position. I called it, but the center did not see it until after a goal had been scored. Once he saw it, he called it, and the players, coaches, and parents were furious at me. The ones from the attacking team say that the player had received the ball from a throw-in, and 'Didn't I know the Fifa rulebook?!'
Afterward, the center ref told me he had agreed with the parents on that call. I felt pretty discouraged and frustrated with myself. My question to you, ref is how do you deal with these kinds of situations (all of the above) and how do you regain your self-dignity? Thanks.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Julie,

Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. Some of my worst experiences of refereeing have been with U/12 games - even some of the behaviour I've seen in U/11 matches would appall most people.

Sometimes you simply come across teams with appalling parent behaviour. This makes it very difficult to referee, because then the players are brought up to disrespect the referee, the laws and the opponents, and if the refereeing team takes any action they'll cop it from the sideline.

Behaviour like this, particularly from parents at this age, absolutely disgusts me. Unfortunately, copping some flak from time to time is part and parcel of the job. Most games go by with little incident, but these terrible games will occur sometimes.

Remember that the parents aren't abusing you - they're abusing the badge that you're wearing. It doesn't make a difference which individual is behind the badge - these spectators will treat anybody the same.

This is where it's particularly difficult for an assistant referee - as a centre referee, you may not hear most of what's being said. As an assistant, there's little escape.

Regarding the uncertainty of whose throw in it would be, you've done the correct thing there. If you're unsighted, that's not your fault - and you did well to communicate that to the referee through eye contact and mirror his signal. Well done.

As far as the apparent goal - there's nothing you could do there. It's a pity that the parents decided to take it out on you, but most spectators don't have the faintest idea about the laws of the game or the role of the assistant. I've lost count of the times I've been criticised from the sideline for my action or inaction - such as, for not calling an apparent foul that the referee has a far better view of.

When sports are involved, people often resort to an animal-like state where they're controlled by their emotions. People who are normally reasonable and pleasant can sometimes become appalling examples of cowardice and malice. Being controlled by their emotions, they form a reactive state of mind. This means that they seek reactions to their actions, and this will feed their actions further.

What does this mean for you? It means any response you give will often feed further abuse. If you don't give a response, they'll feed off each other - but if you give them any signal that you've even heard what they're saying, this may have the undesired effect of leading to further problems.

I understand it's very difficult to show no response, but please try to resist the temptation to turn around and respond. You won't win - and in doing so you may miss a decision.

The idiots on the sideline can carry on all they want - it doesn't affect your integrity and professionalism. You did the right thing in holding your flag until the referee saw it - and I'm very disappointed that this official chose to kick you when you were down. A little support from our colleagues goes a long way - and if he was absolutely certain you were incorrect then he should have overruled you.

You will have games when you walk off the field wondering why you do it, and wondering if it's all worth it. But if you give up too easily, then you're letting the spiteful mob win. The fact that you've chosen to take the challenging job of a referee already shows that you have more than enough character to not let these clowns win. Walk out there next week with your head held high. Yes, you will remember this game next time you pick up the whistle but odds are the next game will go smoothly, and instead of wondering why you do this job, you'll start remembering why. It's the challenge, the variation, the opportunity for growth and for the love of the beautiful game - despite a disappointing minority who try their hardest to drag the beautiful game into the mud.

With experience you'll learn to ignore the comments, you may even learn tricks (such as concentrating extra heard on what's in front of you) that stop you from hearing them at all. Remember, it has nothing to do with you and is more about an immature and ignorant minority losing control to their emotions trying to act tough in front of their equally ignorant and immature peers.

Now, why would you even care what somebody like that thinks? They're not even worth a second thought!

Remember, their actions say far more about themselves than about you. If you remember that then you'll remember that you're the bigger person.

And once you figure that out, nothing they say can touch you.

After all, words are just words - and when they're spoken with such incredible ignorance and malice they're not even worth the effort it takes to hear them.

Good luck next week - I look forward to hearing how you go, and don't hesitate to seek further advice should you have further difficulties.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Julie
Thank you for sharing your experience. It is probably typical of the life of an AR in competitive games with many spectators. In underage matches the spectators will be parents and there can be measures that the CR can use to deal with parents. In general though referees and ARs have to have a 'thick skin' and not to take comments personally and certainly as one progresses the measures of dealing with this diminish at the higher levels.
Some advice
1. The AR's role is to assist the referee. She can only do that with 100% concentration of the game. For me over the years and I know it is difficult is to 'blot out' what is behind the line but the best way to deal with this is to focus on the field of play only. Totally ignore what is happening behind.
2. It is never a good idea to engage with anyone behind you for the reason you mention in your post. It distracts the AR from what is happening on the field and then something is missed.
3. The 'shouting' only works if it is having an effect. The greatest tool that a referee or AR can have in my opinion is being able to ignore spectators. Think about it. Why are they shouting/talking out loud? It is to influence your calls in favour of their team. By being totally 'immune' from shouting from anyone, other than 'participants' who can be sanctioned, I show a total focus on the game. Rise about the petty calling and view them as irrelevant.
4. The only judge in these situations are yourself, your colleagues and any assessor. That is the only views that count. Most spectators don't know the law and really only have selective viewing. To listen to some supporters one would believe that their team did not commit any fouls and that they are always hard done by.

This experience is part of the journey. Your upset will toughen your resolve to not allow spectators to influence your reactions in the future. Your self dignity is intact. You did nothing wrong, you made calls as you saw them in a fair, impartial manner. When refs do that they can walk with their heads up knowing that they have provided the game with a valuable service.
Keep up the good work and best wishes as you progress and gain more valuable experience in the journey.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

On the apparent goal, it was not your call to make. What you and the parents could see from your angle - which would have been a bad angle - is not what the lead AR could see at the other end of the field.

As the other responses have noted, you cannot take your attention away from the field. This means not chasing after balls that have gone out, and certainly not turning around to converse with someone. It is not your job as AR to try to calm the parents; that should be left to the center.

That said, I am sorry you had to put up with all the nonsense. If I was a center in a U12 game, I would not tolerate such comments being made to my AR's. However, perhaps you live and work in a less-enlightened soccer culture, where berating the ref crew is accepted. One way I have found of abiding the comments from the sideline while 'not listening' to them is to try to find some humor in the comments. When you hear parents who are spouting off things that are obviously incorrect in the Laws, sometimes it ends up being funny, not annoying.

Ask yourself: Do you generally like being a referee? Do you derive satisfaction from doing a good job at a well-played game? If so, then don't let the jerks keep you away from doing something that you like. If you let them, then the jerks have won.

Read other questions answered by Referee Gary Voshol

View Referee Gary Voshol profile

Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Sweetheart, my colleagues give excellent advice. In your (hopefully long and productive) referee career, there will be many games that make you go home and want to throw away the whistle (or flag) for good such as the one you described here. But like so many things in life, if you focus only on the negative, you will miss out on the joy that comes with calling a great game, working with outstanding colleagues, learning new skills, teaching others, and getting to physically, mentally and emotionally participate in the world's greatest game. Don't let them win. Your skills are needed - theirs are not.

Sometimes, ear plugs can be a great asset (either real or virtual). Nothing is more irritating to the type of folks who were abusing you than to be ignored, so the easiest thing to do is to irritate them more than they affect you - accomplished by being blissfully ignorant of what they say or do. By concentrating on the game in front of you, and working hard to get each call correct, you take away their power, which power is small and mean and non-existent if ignored. And after the game, complain in the referee tent about their behavior, talk to the assignor, talk to your referee, find a mentor and get help developing the armor necessary to repel these unwarranted attacks. Even if you are wrong on a call, and we all are from time to time, you will make hundreds more right calls that wrong ones. When we make mistakes, we get better at what we do - show me a referee who has never made a mistake, and I'll show you a referee who has never grown past his entry level clinic.

Threats from the fans are a wholly different issue. If someone, coach or fan, threatens or scares you, put your flag up, get the referee's attention and get their help. If you are being ignored by the referee, and you are truly frightened, put the flag down and leave. It is just a game, and it is not worth being injured or abused. Be sure and get to a safe place, call the assignor and if appropriate, the authorities and report what has happened.

Read other questions answered by Referee Michelle Maloney

View Referee Michelle Maloney profile

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Thank you for remaining a referee. I've found that the joy and fun officiating a great match lasts longer than the pain and frustration of dealing with abusive sidelines and less than supportive referees. But, it doesn't make the bad ones easier.

It is far harder to be an assistant referee than the center. It requires tremendous focus, split second judgments, and accepting that it is the referee's match (even if you would call something differently) . Only a few people can do what you do.

The lesson from this match is that responding to clueless parents and coaches can affect the referee's performance. One trick I use when they vent over a tough call is to remind myself to laugh at the clueless ones and remember that more assistant coaches are sent off for being right than being wrong. The key is to let it go and stay focused. They are yelling at the shirt, not the person.

You are entitled to enjoy the match. You are entitled to be safe. Most coaches are terrific and very few are jerks. When you have been doing this for a few years, you'll find that the challenges change and with it your ability to ignore that which is merely passion and deal with that which is disrespect. Then, every so often, you will be assigned a U11 match and remember just how badly the parents behave. It's a wonder anyone puts up with them.

Read other questions answered by Referee Dennis Wickham

View Referee Dennis Wickham profile

Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Hi Julie. We lose 44% of our referees every year and the major reason is what you endured today. Some points that may help.
1. Parents, especially at lower levels know little or nothing about the Laws and will quickly open their mouths and prove it.
2. They were criticizing and bullying you from a position of ignorance.
3. Parents acting like this are ADULT BULLIES who should be ashamed of themselves.
4. Yelling at a young AR until she is in tears is horrible and those parents are jerks. You hold your head high.
5. Your center referee let you down. If the offside you called disallowing a goal came at a throw-in, what was the referee doing? He should never had told you you were wrong AFTER the game. If he agreed with the screaming parents he should have allowed the goal.
6. This ever happens again, get your center's attention and tell him you can't do your job properly due to the harassment and make him/her deal with it. DEMAND it if you must.
7. I used to center games with most of our new ARs. Part of the center's job is to protect you. You say he spoke to some of the parents earlier. The first word I hear directed at one of my ARs I tell whoever it was that they are to say NOTHING to my AR. They want to complain, tell me. It's my field and I'll take the heat and deal with it. Your center should have done this.
8. I have watched many lower level games and afterwards just reamed the center for not watching out for his ARs.
9. Learn from this. You made one big mistake:NEVER takes your eyes from the field to address a parent.
10. The AR job is incredibly difficult. I much prefer the center. ARs have to be constantly aware of so much and make important split second decisions.
11. You know more about the Laws than 99% of parents/coaches/players unless they are also referees. Laugh at the fools. They only show their ignorance.
12. Sounds like you're doing a good job and having fun up to now. Hang in there. Don't let a bunch of bullies that would go ballistic if anyone spoke to their child as they spoke to you ruin what can be a great job for you. We need more referees like you that are willing to come to sites like ours in order to better themselves

Read other questions answered by Referee Keith Contarino

View Referee Keith Contarino profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 24414
Read other Q & A regarding Law 6 - Assistant Referee

The following questions were asked as a follow up to the above question...

See Question: 24418

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The free opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>