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Question Number: 28809

Character, Attitude and Control 10/1/2014

RE: Youth Under 11

bob of las vegas, nevada usa asks...

My question is regarding how to deal with unruly parents and coaches during youth games.

Obviously it is always said to ask, tell and remove offending coaches from games. But in the youth setting, this seems to cause more problems than it solves.

Because coaches and parents on the same team are typically on the same sideline feet from each other, sending off a coach causes a huge uproar with the parents and makes the game even more out of control. The coach will then go to the referee coordinator and talk during the game and when it's over you are greeted with a confrontation between the coach and coordinator

For a parent, it creates a very bad situation where you send a parent off and they refuse to go so you have to threaten their coach with ending the game if they don't leave and possibly file a report that a game was suspended due to a parent not leaving

I have always just ignored it. Especially with parents, they rarely ever confront after a game, they just stay mad/frustrated during a game and when it ends, it's over. For a coach who tries to confront you, you just say 'I am the ref and that was my decision' and threaten to press charges if he touches you at all.

What are your thoughts regarding this

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bob
A few thoughts on this.
What I have found over the years is that if the complainant gets a reaction it will persist. Blanking the shouts can have the desired effect in that the person may feel they are wasting their breath and ease up
When it can't be ignored the Ask part has to be well managed. I'm always courteous and professional when speaking to the coach. I do though leave him in the certain knowledge that if I come back he will be watching the game from elsewhere. If it is after the game sometimes I tell the coach that I will speak with him in 15/ 20 minutes. That allows the situation to calm down. If he just wants to let off some steam I say to him that I hear what he has to say and I'm sorry that he feels aggrieved about one decision which could be a penalty call / offside etc. I just then walk on and ignore it as best I can. I certainly would not threaten him as he knows full well the reprecussions of misconduct. Reminding him does not help
I would also advise not to confront spectators. Leave that up to the home club or whoever is responsible for stewarding the venue. Again if it is a coach that I'm speaking with I tell him in no uncertain terms that if the unruly persons does not desist he will be removed and if he persists the match will end. Leave it with the coach to sort and ensure he takes responsibility for it even when he doesn't want to. The game does not restart until that happen.
Now I know it is difficult yet the referee has to detach himself from the situation and not get sucked into a confrontation. That is best done by making it as difficult as possible. An example can be to end the game to move as far away from the likely confrontation or walking away smartly towards the changing room if that is possible.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Bob,
I ask your indulgence. I answered not only in response to your question but added some thoughts that might resonate with others rereading this at a later date.
It is sad statement at the youth recreational level, frenzied, uneducated, nincompoops, can effect the enjoyment of all
F in fun is turned into frenzied the
U is turned into uneducated and the
N into nincompoops by the supposed adults in charge.

Confrontation is always unpleasant, there is a reason we avoid the loud and obnoxious, they make us feel unpleasant. I have to wonder if those that reside at the oratory of touchline abuse have glanced at this sage advice at least once in their miserable lives?
Desiderata prose
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
There is more but it sets the mood does it not?

As a referee your options are only limited to what you consider a reasoned approached!
your support network provided by the league or association or match venues
your character and force of personality (I like your blunt, I am the ref. I made a decision. end of story)
your ability to ignore the outbursts and not directly engage outside agents
your reading of the match temperature and evaluating the SAFETY of the participants, yourself included
your taking to task those who inflame the game into an unsafe place and following through on the necessary steps to correct their actions regardless of the inconvenience or discomfort it places on you!
We are adults, imagine the difficulty youth referees endure?

I make it a point not to threaten but to act appropriately with professional courtesy and respect when confronted by the loud and the obnoxious but will react to ANY situation where the safety of players is a priority. Even as AR I hear parents baiting the other kids or telling one to go after another! Such conduct CAN NOT go unpunished or unresolved! When groups are arguing with each other about which team is dirtier and it is obvious this idiocy is directly or indirectly affecting the kids, it can not be ignored!

It does take a monumental screw-up by a parent to get me actually thinking we really need to remove this detractor for setting this match into explosion mode! Less of a screw up by coaches as we hold them accountable to their mandate within the LOTG to act in a reasonable manner. .

Referees tend to be able to ignore most idiots, knowing they are overloaded on emotional needs and result driven priorities! These are facts we simply do not care about as a neutral official working a match for the benefit of the YOUTH not the coach or the parent! The key aspect is taking a run at me is one thing "Hey ref if you had another eye you would be a Cyclops! or "You suck! " easily blocked out! It is when the match is being ruined for the youth playing. that I determine the need to intervene.

Your issues are not so much isolated to the field itself as they are to the league that permits such behaviour to go unregulated. A zero abuse tolerance must be within the bylaws of a proactive league with the moxie to follow through on those brave enough to call out the detractors. A well run league provides CLEAR channels of communication, those that pretend, having the appearance without the substance, foster needless disrespect, continual apathy and ultimately discouragement of referees to continue.

Failure to communicate effectively as adults is a failure to those youth players and referees placed under our care and protection. It can be painful and exasperating to endure what one have no control over, but it is a lousy excuse to lose control so that it forces those also attending the game to endure the additional pain and exasperation related to someone else's choices of dissenting antics.

As referees we generally have a rather selective hearing condition. Our skin is thick enough to deflect the mutterings of the disenchanted unless the flames of dissent are out of control. Dissent is rather like a forest fire, it starts out as a small match, jumps to campfire status, throwing a bit of light and heat on the situation which actually enlightens the surroundings! ( A wise referee uses some dissent for feedback to keep the match at a nice temperature!) Yet when it jumps beyond, into raging infernos, uncontrolled dissent is flat out abuse, like a burning forest, takes down everything in its path. The attitudes and demeanour of those around you are also consumed by the unleashed firestorm of protest that springs forth. Caught up in a maelstrom of disenchantment:
- at the perpetrator of the dissent, for being the cause of their anxiety
- at the officials, for not being able to put out the fire,
- at themselves, for failing to remember their part in fire prevention on the field which is to stamp out the flames of abuse as a collective action...

When you ask for advice it is difficult to tell another what to do based on what we might choose to do, not knowing if you are comfortable doing these things. I am very pro active in creating a working relationship with all those I come into contact with on the pitch. I engage on a very personal level and am quite vocal about encouraging parents to ask questions . I engage them to offer their time to volunteer, to be respectful and I will make sometime to answer queries after the match. I often get them to pick a player from the opposing team to signal out as the best representative of what the game of soccer represents. It helps them focus on the kids in understanding the sporting aspect and effort not just the result. I ensure the fans, parents are far back from the touchlines so as not to interfere with my ARS who are not to be bothered in any way during the match!

As with the parents I again engage the coaches or kids to ask questions as well.I SPECIFICALLY spell out in any pregame talk with the team during equipment check or see the id cards to go over some very FUNDEMENTAL aspects of a match!

HI all, its a great day to play the beautiful game! I am Fair not perfect!
My ARs (who are cleat checking shin guards and ids ) are 100% off limits to ANY abuse or dissent! Any questions?

You may ask to talk to me IF respectful! IF the time is appropriate! But IF I say no it is no! More than willing to discuss AFTER the match any concerns you have provided we are calm. I will not engage in an argument nor be yelled at, Any questions?

YOU ALWAYS PLAY the whistle, not the flag, the flag is ONLY for me, the Whistle is ONLY for you! Any questions?

On free kick restarts it could be most unwise to delay or fail to respect the distance. Any questions? (unfortunately I am very anal about delaying restarts perhaps too quick to caution, so I attempt to warn them of this condition )
I discuss any special match conditions or tournament rules. Any questions?

I go over substitutions a youth matches( it is often the single biggest use of non match time!)
All substitution happen at centre!( 4th if present controls this) those substituting MUST be there before the stoppage! And at a proper stoppage ,on your possession ,when the opponent subs or on my approval, those there MUST substitute, because if I see you there you are telling me you want to sub so if I stop play, you sub, please know who you are taking off.
Any player substituted must hustle off the field , you may leave the field at any point but MUST raise the hand to indicate you are off the field, be sure I see you and I will wave in your substitute who will hustle into position for the restart .
It would be most unwise to not follow these protocols. any questions!
Captains I will whistle for the coin flip shortly!
The rest of you! Have fun! Play safe!

Try hard to be in good humour, tolerant, fair and project a calm exterior! Communication with ARs is crucial to match control and a solid pregame review may help curb unrest before it goes sideways on us but even my own protocols are at times restricted by timing and conditions beyond my control. Many referees will not want to or even think it is a good idea to talk to the teams prior to the match. Taking the less they see me the better the match will be approach. I try to do that while the match is in progress but with youth we are often in a teaching mode mindset!

In the end if you say it is more bother to affect unpleasant change then to ignore abuse, it perpetuates the abuse. I understand the reluctance to engage those who fling the flaming arrows and sometimes we try so hard to ignore it as we walk off the pitch even if the bile is churning in our guts. It is a choice and we make it based on our level or desire to correct a problem that is possibly not correctable. That is the irony of action versus non action in that if no one follows through both are equally ineffective and your time and efforts are wasted!

You will find in any soccer venue there will be varying levels of competence and skill displayed among those who participate. From the strength and commitment of the league or organization through the entire regime of membership participants, players, parents, administrators, coaches managers, referees and fans. The accountability of each is a indictment of league or association in general. How well or serious do they take conflict resolution? Training, sharing and fixing not just assigning blame?

Having ALL participants including the parents, referees. players, managers, coaches etc... sign an agreement to participate respecting fair play. I often am appalled at why those within the league itself do not hold joint meetings with mandatory participation by EVERYONE as part of the league mandate. So coaches and referees and parents and players can ask the other in a less stressful situation than a 2 to 1 match in the last 5 minutes, what is going on?

What format is there to record and report misconduct or actions of officials within your association?
What policies are in place to deal with situations such as you describe?
What do I do if, in my opinion, the referee is not very good!
How are we monitoring the quality of officiating?
How are we monitoring the quality of the coaching?
What if the other team is playing too rough endangering the safety of my players?
Why can I not talk to the referee during a match?
What if the referee makes a mistake? What if he is abusive?
What can I do as a referee if a parent or coach is not giving me the respect I need to officiate?
What criteria are we using to expel a coach or parent from the pitch?

What if they refuse to leave or agitate others?
What recourse does an ejected coach or parent or player have if asked to leave?
What can I do as a player, if I am being bullied?

What can I do as a kid if the adults are always yelling at me?
What is offside?
WHY should I fill out comment forms? What good are they?
Where are the forms I need to comment on a team, player coach or referee performance? How to fill them out? Are there tick off boxes on a scale of 1 to 10 or comments regarding safety and effort and knowledge?
Who reads them? When are they read? What is done with them? Will I be targeted if I complain a lot?

We tend to isolate the officiating aspect from the rest of the soccer association, it becomes adversarial in nature to approach each other as if affixing blame is of greater benefit than fixing the issues?
The greatest difficulty is one can not legislate good behaviour or rely on integrity or choose NOT to think we can still be on the same side when we agree to disagree.

People pretty much are spoiled and self centered and opinionated, especially when they know they are right, no matter how wrong they are! So there MUST be consequences for unsafe, threatening or attacking actions. Perhaps a standing agreement with local law enforcement that if a league representative called to have a patron , coach parent, player removed for disorderly conduct they could participate and be glad to help enforce a non abuse policy which if plainly stated on the fields of play and park areas.
If you are summarily dismissed from the match, field, park area you must immediately comply or the authorities will escort you off and criminal charges may apply, might hasten their departure!

For instance you mention when the match is over you are immediately greeted with a confrontation between the coach and coordinator? ANY coordinator who did that has zero credibility with me, especially if they tried to threaten me or prevented me from getting into my truck.

Yes I am tough on abuse and unwarranted dissent. Those watching and playing must be respectful and understanding and accept accountability for their actions even if outraged at others who in their opinion are failing in theirs. Knowing the consequences for not managing our self control on the touchlines the league must impress upon those within their associations that action WILL be taken . Referees are subjected to an amazing amount of abuse by players, fans, coaches and parents, who all know better, just not how to act better! We have control over our own actions and attitudes nothing more, a positive approach reduces unnecessary anxiety and distraction! Unfortunately it does automatically eliminate it

Comments that reflect another's integrity and abilities are not always unjustified, whether they are appropriate or not is another matter. One must consider the source and type of comments if we are sincere in raising the standards but they should presented in a format that is helpful to the league to deal with. POOR attitudes, poor communications, poor parenting! poor coaching, poor officiating, does not benefit the match or the players!

I often consider the life force of officiating within the hearts of many recreational referees (myself included) is the effect we have both on and away from the pitch. The concept of integrity, highlights an essential life force element of a referee's character! While every choice has ramifications, it is in the honor of the position of trust that one makes the correct choice for the right reason, one can not honor the truth without integrity. As a result of this illumination , I developed a life defining realization, 'A referee with integrity sees what he sees!' I referee with such ease now I find it hard to imagine how I struggled with the useless chaff that accompanies so much of what we do!

Over time I developed an unusual pattern of perception whereby I saw the game differently when playing the game as a needful player, watching the game as a biased fan, cheering as a proud parent, invested in the outcome as a coach and as a supposedly neutral referee! In an article I wrote long ago entitled ' Are we still on the same side when we disagree? ' I remarked there are four points of view from which a game is seen.

1 players see what they feel to see
2 coaches sees what they want to see
3 spectators see what they think they see
4 a referee with integrity sees what he sees

While we can not perhaps compare recreational to elite level football, played for gain rather than pleasure. The adversarial attitudes that occasionally surround recreational football are often created by the need for a result or favourable outcome, not just the concern over safety

I have maintained a belief, flawed though it might be, is players must adapt to a referee as a match condition and the BEST the players can hope for is impartiality, fairness and consistency! Notice I did not say perfection or mention foul recognition or law understanding even though knowledge of the LOTG and reading the foul tolerance of the players are fundamental to the development of a referees ability to do well.

As a player, fan, parent, and as a coach, I consider the referee as a MATCH condition, one that you adapt to, much like the weather or pitch surface. Good or bad, stormy or sunny, rain or shine, slippery or dry you find your way through!!

As a referee we can try to be as consistent a condition as we can, so the players, fans, parents, and coaches, will know what to expect! The key to a good official is in my opinion the ability to crack a smile, humour and compassion, integrity and effort, knowledge and application of it. Referees often find themselves in an unenviable positions where a decision made in a split-second could be devastating to the aspirations of a player, team, city, even nation. Yet those who find fault in our actions never seem to understand how hard we try to not make an incorrect decision, knowing the impossibility of getting them all right!


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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

Many youth leagues have competition rules dealing with fan behavior. Most of those rules make it the responsibility of the coach to control the fans. The ref is almost never directly in charge of spectators.

If the rules of the competition do not address the issue, then you have to decide if the parents' behavior rises to a level of outside interference. If so, then you announce to the coaches that the game will not resume until such and so spectator over there leaves the area, and you give them a reasonable but short time to leave. If nothing happens in 2 or 3 minutes, you terminate the game.

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