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Question Number: 26382

Character, Attitude and Control 5/24/2012

RE: Competitive Under 15

Dave Roberts of Seattle, WA United States asks...

This question is a follow up to question 26344

My child plays high school soccer. I've heard the coach tell the team that if a foul is called against them, one of the players should stand in front of the ball until the ref tells them to back up.

I also heard another team coach tell the players that on a throw-in, if the ref turns his/her back, to run down the field as far as you can before taking the throw-in. (I actually saw one of our players gain 8-10 yards that way).

My child went to a soccer camp and came back telling me that they were taught how to grab someone's jersey to throw that player off balance without the ref noticing.

These type of things seem to be accepted by many people & you certainly see this at higher levels (in all sports, not just soccer).

What advice do you give your child who loves the game & wants to improve?

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

My experience is that most coaches are great people, who love the game and molding the character of young men and women. A few are jerks. All are under extreme pressure from parents who think that success on the field may lead to a college scholarship. In many ways it is much tougher today to be a coach than to be a referee.

So, my first advice to parents is to talk to the children about fair play and character. Parents can and will affect their children's behavior - - although with teenagers it is easy to believe they don't hear. The kids also care about fair play and character, but they need confirmation from adults that the hard decision is the right one.

The second advice to parents is to let the coach's coach and focus on supporting your child. It is hard to remember that it is their game, not ours.

Finally, in my area, one of the problems is that many of the coaches are not teachers at their school. They may not buy into the notion that high school sports are part of the education environment; they see it only as an extension of the competitive league. It is useful if parents can convince the athletic directors and school administrators to come and watch the matches. I know of a few instances where the principal was shocked at what they observed, and and acted immediately to make changes so that the conduct on the field matched the teaching objectives of the school.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Dave
In 1947 Stephen Potter, a British author, coined the term "gamesmanship" for "the art of winning games without actually cheating"
Modern sportspeople, fuelled by colossal rewards, are easily tempted into misbehaviour such as diving, feigning injury, seeking to gain an unfair advantage. They end up playing the system not the game, by duping the ref into making wrong but favourable decisions or gaining an unfair advantage through manipulating the laws to their advantage. And this then finds it way down to the lower ranks and the underage game. Ultimately that destroys the point of sport with the focus purely on winning at all costs.
It annoys me that coaches go out of their way to coach unsporting behaviour. Whatever about it just happening in a game with it being ignored but to actively encourage it is an indictment of some coaches.
I can live with the 'minor' advice of slowing down a free kick or sneaking a few yards at a throw in but to teach someone to foul? On the minor items it is up to the referee to ensure that it does not happen which then ends up as a test of the referee's ability to understand what is happening.
I think the smarter players see through the cynical nature of some coaching
and I certainly would be educating players on the finer points of good sporting behaviour and the benefits that it can bring in life.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Sadly, what you have seen and been told is commonplace in all sports. The attitude of 'You're not guilty of anything unless you get caught' has permeated sports. Of course, your coach telling his players to blatantly ignore the Rules and stand in front of the ball preventing a quick kick is not only wrong but stupid. Referees the world over are sick of this tactic and more of us are going straight to our cards with no verbal warning when players do this. Now the player has been booked and a second yellow will result in his being dismissed from the game (or sent off under FIFA rules).

Soccer is a wonderful sport. It's Laws and Rules are written with the concept of Fair Play being paramount. When coaches teach players to foul or commit misconduct, they destroy the enjoyment of the game. Many games I have worked it was all too apparent the coaches were instructing their players to ignore Fair Play and see what I would tolerate. Others were teaching their players to wait until my back was turned and then hold,punch,shove,punch,kick , etc. an opponent. More and more, the trail AR has to watch for this stuff.

What do you tell your child? As a parent, I have always believed my job was to instill in my children a sense of right and wrong. Both my sons were blessed with wonderful coaches. Had the coaches acted as yours does, I would have told my kids to play by the rules, not to cheat, and not be disrespectful of the game. I'm sure they would have been in trouble with their coach but then the coach would have had me to deal with. Not a good situation for anybody and totally avoidable by simply playing hard but fair.

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