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Question Number: 22525

Mechanics 11/15/2009

RE: Rec./Select Under 15

Steve Goldberg of Cupertino, Ca USA asks...

Hi and thanks for your great web site!

I have a general question regarding signaling by the center referee.

I've been ref'ing for a couple of years now and am getting very comfortable with the hand signals used in the game.

My question is regarding signals for 'non calls'. I've been reading the USSF guidelines and they appear to be very strong in that no signaling is necessary/warranted on a non-call (no foul, no handling, etc.). I understand the reasoning in that if there is no whistle, then there was no foul and everyone should understand play should continue.

As we all know as ref's, coaches, parents, and players can become quite heated if they feel that the referee is missing calls. It does seem that there at times, hopefully not too many, where it's important to let everyone know that you saw what happened but there was no foul or infraction. My concern is that with no indication by the center referee it can sometimes appear that a call was missed when in fact it was not. With the younger players this happens quite a bit with handling (not well understood by many outside the ref'ing community) and falls that were not caused by the opposing team.

I am not referring at all to 'advantage'...I'm fine with that.

Can you give me any guidance, if there is any, as to how to communicate that I (the center ref) am on top of things when there is a no-call.

Thank you!

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

I see nothing wrong with talking to players. If they look at you in expectation of a call, or call out something like, 'Handball', you can respond, 'Not deliberate'. You might add a shake of the head to emphasize your remark.

But just as whistling too often will lose effectiveness for when you really need a whistle, so will talking too much. If you are constantly pointing out non-calls when the players aren't expecting a call, it will make you less effective when you really need to get their attention for something.

The type of signals that USSF discourages are usually between referees. These sometimes can be quite effective, but other times can become distracting. They also don't want referees to end up signalling everything like NFHS requires.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Another phrase referees use in such situations is 'nothing there, keep playing'. At least they know you are watching!

I have used the 'not deliberate' many times myself, and it is effective - if nothing else it generates questions which may lead to better understanding by the players/coaches/fans. Sometimes something like 'that was close #7, be careful' lets the players know you see what is happening.

Ref Voshol is absolutely correct that any such verbal communication needs to be minimal, and generally is only needed when the players are looking at you quizzically. If you do use signals, be sure the ARs are aware of what they are, that they are unobtrusive and don't use more than one or two and not often!

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Use your voice and body language!
NO! 50/50, Nothing there! Well in! NOT deliberate!

Be sure to shout and signal advantage when you do see a foul but need to not stop play.
The momentary pause to consider something should be used through the entire game so it does not seem you are too quick to blow or too slow and reacting only to what those already doing the screaming are saying.

Your character and demeanour on the field will reflect confidence if you remember to look and act the part even if you have doubts!

Sometimes a witty saying, a bit of humour a stern countenance or sharp rebuke all have a place in managing situations.
I recall a slide tackle where a well executed one leg in low the other leg bent back no use of the arms poked a ball free that was allowed to get a bit too far ahead of the attacker. The attacker fell over the outstretched body after the ball had been knocked away. The attacker because they were losing by a goal wanted the foul and started to spout off REF he tripped me! I shot back. "Are you kidding me that was a perfect text book fair tackle! Hell I'd hire him to demonstrate the technique to my own players on my team!


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Answer provided by Referee Nathan Lacy

A phrase I have used when instructing and in reference to game control is that you need to 'let them know that you know'. By this I mean that, as was stated by Ref Maloney, at least they know you are watching, saw what happened, and have made a decision regarding the nature of the event and NOT that you didn't see it, didn't understand it, or didn't recognize it as a foul (at least in their minds). As Ref Voshol points out the reference to 'negative signals' actually was meant to refer to signals between officials - the 'onside hand', the 'ball still in play hand', and so forth. While we don't want to bore the players to death by our waxing eloquent about the events that are occurring on the field there are indeed times when we need to let the players know that WE know what's going on so that they don't go and do something stupid - like retaliation. The amount and level of interaction you have with the players will depend on your personality and style and is probably something you will be refining over a lengthy period of time. Finding what works for you to help manage the game and maintain control without it becoming a negative influence on the nature of the game by annoying and frustrating players is a continual process. You have been given some good suggestions on methods and techniques that others have found to work. Try a few out but I would highly recommend that you 'adapt, not adopt' what you have seen/heard here. You need to find what is right and what works for you. Best of luck in your endeavors. All the best,

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

A very good question
The most obvious one is advantage. As you say you are familiar with that but many new refs are reluctant to shout and signal loudly for 'advantage'. That is the clearest call that a ref can make that a foul has been seen but that he has allowed play to continue. It also tells the sideline that the ref has decided to allow play to continue and the manner in which it is done is important and it sets the tone for other calls such as the no foul. In those instances it can be a matter of shouting words that you are comfortable with such as 'Nothing there'. 'Player got the ball fairly'. It can be accompanied with pointing clearly at the ball when it has been won in a tackle after the tackler moves it away. Sometimes I make a gesture with both open hands making a circle shape which suggests that the ball has been won fairly. The only problem with that one is that winning the ball is not a free pass for a reckless tackle. The other signal that I use is pointing to both players on a late coming together and the ball has been moved away which shows onlookers that you have seen it but again you have decided not to act either because there was nothing there or trifling.
On penalty calls sometimes I use the crossed hands extending fully out to the side in a scissor cutting motion and a shake of the head. That tells everyone that you have seen it and you do not believe that a penalty should be awarded.
On fouls that have been awarded that may not be seen by players and onlookers I sometimes motion the foul such a push in the back. I mimic the foul so that everyone sees that I have made a call on pushing. Another one is PIADM where I simply raise the foot in a similar way if there is any doubt why I called it. Some will be so obvious that an explanation is not required.
On the calls of "handball ref" I shout "Accidental" "Ball to hand" " Not deliberate" which again shows that you have seen it but it was not deemed deliberate handling. Other shouts can be "Off his face" " Off his chest" because player look for deliberate handling of any contact with the body. Again clearly shows that you have seen it and decided it was not deliberate handling of the ball.

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