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Question Number: 27977

Law 5 - The Referee 11/5/2013

RE: competitive Under 13

Elisabeth Clemence of Bradenton, Florida USA asks...

I love our soccer league and coach. However, I was very upset about last Sat.'s game. We have a new referee and he, no parent biased here, has shown complete bias to the losing team. Our team is 6-0. Undefeated. So, clearly, I am happy about wins, but more important than winning to me is the rules of the game. Our son wants to eventually play college soccer and hopes for more. We pay a great deal for regular soccer and advanced training. This to me is a start for his future in the sport.
* the opposing team begins to lose by 3 or more points, he begins calling penalties only on our team.
* ref. Allows hands, off sides, tripping, unspotsmanlike conduct ( taunting) only on losing team.
*ref. Calls water breaks 2-3 minutes early just as our team has a sure goal. He laughed with other team saying, 'you know I did that so they couldn't score again.'
* game began with 8 players each. When the score reached 7-0, he benched two of our best players to 'give them a chance to score.'
Am I being a soccer mom out of control? I am paying for fun #1, skills #2, sportsmanship #3.
I want our team to win, but would rather lose than my child being taught incorrect rules of competitive soccer. Please advise. Thank you!

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The challenge for parents is that they are being asked to pay a lot of money, and they expect more than just a safe and fun experience for their children to play a game. The hidden truth in youth sports, however, is that how much you pay bears little or no resemblance to whether your child will make a college team. My friends who coach college tell me that they rarely can tell who at age 13 will have the skills, size, attitude, and desire to play at the collegiate level. Indeed, the stress we put on our kids (me too) is that burn out is very common.

I wish we had more fit, young, professional referees willing to run 5 miles per game and endure the taunts from coaches and parents for $28. We try to put the newer referees in situations where they can gain the experience to be able to handle the U16 matches in a couple years. That means, the younger teams may get referees who have only a year or so of experience.

Kids tend to be very realistic about the conditions in which they play. I remember a drive home with my child where I was ranting about some decision by the referee. He looked at me and said, 'Dad, he was doing his best.' I was profoundly shocked that he was the only grown-up in the car.



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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Elizabeth
This is a question for your team, your coaches and your League.
I have attended many League meetings where the issue of one sided games is discussed at length and the 'best' way to manage that. Many weaker teams complain about the manner in which stronger teams disregard their opponents when it is apparent the game is going to be totally one sided with a huge score and 'no mercy' shown to the losing team. Some Leagues go as far as to introduce a 'Mercy Rule' where the winning team perhaps loses a point if it wins by more than 5/6 goals. Without those rules some of the more enlightened coaches substitute the 'better' player when the game is won, move defenders to forward positions and vice versa plus the team has other targets such as passing and movement rather than just scoring. That tries to make the game more enjoyable for both teams and educates the players in sportsmanship.
When that does not happen unfortunately some referees decide to try to assist in making the game more even / balanced. That should not happen yet the winning teams rarely if ever protests the game or report the referee for his actions. Some coaches even encourage covertly the referee to act is this manner. I had a coach ask me recently at half time to blow up the game early as they were losing badly and unlikely to make a comeback. Guess what response that got. No thought of using the 2nd half for working on tactics, giving game time to weaker players etc etc
I can assure you that if the game was highly competitive then none of the actions you mention would happen.
So for your son and his team mates there is a bigger lesson in here than the misapplication of the Laws of the Game by a referee. It is up to coaches, parents to educate the players to ensure that they know how to deal with this. How to treat poor decisions, poor referees, weak opponents, losing games, winning game by a large margin, understanding bias are as important if not more so than knowing the rules.
I'm pretty sure your son at Under 13 recognises this for what it is worth. Dealing with it in the game in the proper way is a skill worth developing for the future.
As a high level coach said to me recently as part of a development exercise. "We only focus on those things that are under our control."



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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

The Referee is allowed to bench players in Bradenton? Competitive U13 soccer is still 8 v 8? The first is patently insane and if the Referee is given this power by league officials I doubt your child is learning anything remotely close to soccer as described in The Laws Of The Game.

I've never seen small sided Competitive soccer above U11 but know coaches plead for small sided soccer in the interests of 'more touches'. Personally, were I paying what I know is a lot of money these days, I'd be having serious talks with the powers that be concerning not only the antics of this referee but the direction of your League in general.
Also,I may as well weigh in on mercy rules and how stupid I think they are. And when coaches start doing things like "no shots" how do you think that makes the team getting hammered feel? Getting your butt kicked is part of life and we as parents need to stop worrying about our poor kid's feelings and just let them play. I remember being on the receiving end of 44-0 football games and also winning by that margin or more. No one likes to lose and no one likes to get slaughtered but it prepares kids for life. They should be taught to play their best, don't quit, and don't cheat and there's not much more you can do



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