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Question Number: 29630

Character, Attitude and Control 8/25/2015

RE: Rec Adult

Pete Lake of Melbourne, Victoria Australia asks...

I have been refereeing now for about four years. Just recently I had a game in which several girls (adult) on one side ended up injured, in a couple of cases very badly. It seemed to me that they had over-committed to tackles or fallen badly rather than been fouled. In one case a foul may have been committed but I was unsighted by several other players in the way.

A day after the game I was appraised of the opinion of a parent of one of the girls, who said I was a terrible referee and these injuries are all down to my inability to handle the game. There was quite a bit more, attacking my positioning, ability to keep up with play etc. And this was not said in the heat of the moment but passed on in written form.

Now I had thought I had a fair game, and I do feel that this criticism is unfair, but it has really given me a bad knock. These girls rely on me to keep them safe and it is difficult to shake off the fear that these criticisms may be right. Every game I get angry players pointing out fouls I missed. It is not that I am frightened to make calls, but when I give things it is always disputed, and they moan if I don't give anything. I am losing confidence in my ability to judge what I see. Is this just the way players are, or am I actually doing a poor job? We have a hard time in our league just to cover matches, and mentoring or assessing down at my level seems non existent.

At this moment I feel like throwing up the whole business. Just how do you guys deal with this kind of thing?

Answer provided by Referee James Sowa


I think we all go through a stretch like this from time to time where we have a series of games, be it at a new level or new gender, where we feel we can not get anything right. It may be tempting to ignore the parents and other 'critics' but sometimes you can pick a few key points from their dissent.

Take your question here:

You said: 'In one case a foul may have been committed but I was unsighted by several other players in the way'

The parent said: 'There was quite a bit more, attacking my positioning, ability to keep up with play etc.'

The players said: 'but when I give things it is always disputed, and they moan if I don't give anything. '

To me, all three of these tie into positioning. Maybe that is something you need to work on in up coming matches. Are you in the best position to make the call and sell the call. The fact that you are getting lost behind players and the parents felt your positioning was off tells me that you may not have been in the most optimal position for those decisions. A simple trick I have used for positioning, and it has really helped me improve as a referee, is to get perpendicular to where the challenge will occur. That means if I see two players running at a loose ball, I want to position myself such that I can see between the players at all times. This guarantees that I will see the grabbing/shoving/hip check/etc. Unfortunately, I can't attach any diagrams to better illustrate my point.

Positioning wise, I also want to make sure that I am close enough to an incident so that if I have to make a tough decision, the players aren't searching for me thirty yards away. A simple trick here. If you are making what you may think is a controversial decision, a five yard sprint will make you appear a lot closer to play than you actually were. That five yards can add presence and reduce the chirping around your decision. The same goes for hard fouls, PKs, etc.

As to the players dissent; as the kids get older and start to become adults, more and more 'dissent' is introduced into the game. The players will test you and push you to see how much they can get away with and whether or not it will influence your decisions. This is where confidence comes in. Make a decision. Right or wrong, make the call and stick to it. If the players disagree, great. Tell them what you saw and move on. If they continue to engage, a quick warning 'We are not going to argue with the decisions today' should suffice. At that point, you have, in a way, 'set up' the player. If they want to continue to dissent, no one should be surprised when the caution comes out. Remember, players pick up very quickly on any sign of hesitation or weakness. Even if you feel like crawling under a rock, make sure you are calm and collected on the field at all times. This alone will quiet alot of dissent. Finally, one last trick in this section. A ball in play can be your best friend. Unless you need to slow play down to reel the game back in, when the ball is in play the players can not argue nearly as much without giving up the ability to defend. A very good FIFA summarized this in a simple sentence: 'Ball down. Wall Down. Play.' It is amazing how much this can smooth out the game.

I have tried to lay out just some sample suggestions based on what you presented above. That said, I am thousands of miles away and can not possibly watch your game. My final piece of advice would be to find a mentor. I know you said they are scarce, but surely there is someone in your area who would be willing to come out to one of your games and give you a few pointers. This would be the best case scenario. The game needs every referee it can get and it is unfortunate that you are considering giving it up. I would take some time to reflect on your recent games and see if you can pick up any trends or areas to focus on. Best of luck and hopefully you make the decision that is best for you.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Pete,
the tendency for others to blame someone for the way life unfolds is one of the characteristics of those who cannot see past their own faults.

Do I assume you are officiating as a SINGLE official? With no ARs?

It is most unfortunate but we lose many a referee without the necessary character thickness of armour to stave off the crushing blow of dissent and abuse. When the game is no longer fun but a bile of churning acid in the gut it is easy to succumb to the pressure of others and give up!

I do not know how well you understand the game! How good your foul recognition is? How you communicate? Your overall sense of why you need to be at those good angles to see what needs to be seen. Your situational awareness and comprehension of both the spirit and the lotg .

What I do know is you are trying to come to terms with why you should continue refereeing? I can surmise you are a decent guy with good intentions . I respect any man or woman who takes up the whistle! I also dislike being threatened or screamed at by others as to my qualities and my integrity on a game that I love! I can easily dismiss much of the grumblings and rancor from the touchlines as easily as water off a ducks back because I associate what is said by who and why! Plus I choose not to let others tell me that I am not up to doing what I can and want to do!

I cannot tell what to do nor claim it is worth while to continue if you do not wish to. What I can say is own it for what you love about the game! Do not allow others to destroy what you value! Refereeing is a job, takes hard work and if you watch matches at ANY level we all have days where one might think we look for a rock to crawl under. In truth, I suggest you climb that mountain of rock and defy anyone to knock you off it. Do not go quietly into that false opinion of perceived pain! Be the master of your soul ! Do not reject all criticism as bad but neither be fooled by the ignorance and biases of those who prattle all knowing nonsense. Humour and integrity are the two tools of character that defy the nay Sayers!

Self evaluation is a critical component in an official realizing their potential.. Sadly, undervalued referees who receive no training, support or mentorship are in for a hard grind when it comes to dealing with unwelcome abuse or criticism. I often reflect that the various entities that make up a soccer match see and value different things. However, if a problem exists, FIX IT!

The spectator sees what they think they see!
The player sees what they feel!
The coach sees what he wants.
A referee with integrity sees what he sees!
As a neutral official with no vested emotional attachment to an outcome other than your duty to apply the LOTG and try to keep them safe when they forget that it is just a game!

Find someone to mentor you!
Get colleagues to watch or help and offer their views!
Video tape your matches and self evaluate and if possible find others to help critique performances.
Ask the coaches and players for HONEST feedback. Take it with a grain of salt that some whiners and moaners will be less than helpful but if you are straight up, chances are at least some will offer a less biased version of the truth as they see it!
Contact league officials DEMAND seminars and training sessions. There are podcasts, videos and many excellent resources with in the FA, FIFA , UEFA , EPL and national institutions that are a click away on the internet.

Try to introduce yourself to the teams. State that, You are fair not perfect! Willing to engage but not argue if time and circumstances permit. If you do have ARS state CATAGORICALLY they are off-limits to ANY abuse, you bring the issue to me only and in a respectful manner. If as a single official tell them you do not make calls unless 100% sure it is required so on things like offside or incidents out of my view, keep in mind where you are on the pitch. ALWAYS PLAY the whistle. Be willing to accept some input as to ball in or out if it is a consensus. However, if one player raises an arm to signal the ball is out but the opponent does not DO NOT stop playing until you HEAR the whistle . Whether you need to state substitution procedures or statet obvious preferences. Example, I am quite anal about free kicks and 10 yds and delay of matches and explain best not test my patience with needless cautionary behaviour. If the ROC has special considerations then make them known

I do suggest you be in decent shape to referee because a lack of effort and spending time walking around at the midpoint of the field will not gain you any respect. I believe teams. players even spectators can handle our occasional mistake even if the disagree but not if they perceive an obvious lack of effort.

Remember we can not see you in action! I tried to filter some essence of your confidence from the barrage of negative appraisals these parents heaped on your table. You mentioned you THOUGHT you were fair? So did you caution or send off for those overcommitted tackles?
Angle of view being blocked did you get to the spot of the perceived foul ASAP?
Did you apologise for missing something if you feel you did?
Were you close to the situations where conflict arose?
After 4 years you must by now know 50% will disagree with you no matter how correct you are on any decision. Do you still play competitively or for fun? Are you stopping play to take care of the injuries ensuring all protocols are followed? Are you letting small stuff slide to the point where it seems you might not be watching the match too closely? What is your composure and bearing when receiving dissent? Whistle use is it appropriate are you sorting out conflict before it arises?

Players MUST be held accountable for their choice of UNSAFE actions, by you, WHEN they occur! It is not you, slide tackling or launching the uncontrolled missile jumps of mass and physics at opposing players where momentum is unrestrained and unleashed in an unsafe fashion. Remember emotive responses by concerned parents are biased and often completely inappropriate. Forgive them for being human and yourself as well, if you make a mistake own up move on!

We are here to help support and guide you as best we can, I wish you well


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Pete
Every referee has had experiences of where you are at the moment. Refereeing can be a lonely place particularly when thing go wrong or where there is personal criticism. Experience has taught me that referees need to have the thick skin of a rhinoceros and that the mental toughness needed to deal with situations can be developed. Many that start out want to be liked by everyone and need constant approval. That only comes from peers who know what it is like. That unfortunately does not happen very often as many times we are on our own at games
The first thing to be said is that a parent is not a very good independent view particularly when there are injuries. I'm not sure how you came to get this so called report. If it is not *official* from an observer with the necessary experience and skills then I would tear it up and put it in the bin. I suspect here that the author has decided that the best shot that he can have is to attack your abilities. That is emotional manipulation. In my early days of refereeing a non too happy coach told me after the game to stick to Underage. His team had a bad day and I like many new young referees was an easy target. Good critiques are never insulting and they always suggest ways of improvement. The letter or whatever may have made the writer feel better hoping that it would make you feel poor. That is entirely selfish and of no benefit to you or the game. See it for what it is.
You mention that injuries were self caused through falling awkwardly, over committing to challenges etc. Those are totally outside the control of the referee and indeed many injuries are rarely if ever due to the referee. Yes perhaps if a referee allows a feisty game to get out of hand and remain unchecked then tackles can fly in. That is not what I read here.
Now I think what has got to you is that there was one incident in the game where you were unsighted. Yes that happens and it is part of the game. It happens every single referee in every single game. Referees work at trying to eliminate those or at worst limited to minor incidents in the game.
I think you would benefit from working on these few points
Resiliency. Leaders rebound from disappointments, mistakes and missed opportunities and get right back up on the horse. They have a hardiness for enduring the downs of a situation.
Be flexible. Leaders have the ability to deal with the unexpected and remain non-defensive. Maintain humour even when the situation becomes tough. By your approach here you suggest to me that you are willing when something isnít going well to remain flexible and look for new ways to solve the problem.
Look for the positive. You mention that the League find it hard to cover games. You are providing a valuable service that very few are willing to do. It is easy to hurl abuse from the bleachers yet the same persons don't want to contribute or could even begin to deal with being in the middle.

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