Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 31486

Mechanics 4/26/2017

RE: Rec Under 15

Trent Futrell of KNOXVILLE, TN - Tennessee USA asks...

I've been refereeing games for a couple years and I believe that soccer is a physical game and there will be contact. Any advice on how to judge if too much contact is going on? I try not to interrupt the game with a ton of whistle blowing unless necessary (obvious penalties). Just wanted some feedback on how others judge it when too much is too much.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Trent,
it is a fundamental question and one that strikes up great debate as to the physicality of the sport. I have has relatives of players on the touchlines offering to fight me over supposed indiscretions I permitted on the field between opposing players.
Sometimes you can only wonder at the thinking even if we understand the desire to protect those we care about
I like your statement about non interference as a neutral official that is exactly the mindset required However temper it with education.
Number one LISTEN to the dissent!
Number two TALK to the players
Number three ADJUST controls.
You are refereeing youth matches.
The age, skill & level of competition are always factors .
Limit advantage to REAL opportunity at the younger levels or less skilled teams
If there is stream of players being carried off on stretches chances are you have missed too much for too long already lol
Be aware if things are cropping up away from play is a BIG sign.
Use ARs to help
The tight grip! At all match starts you need to catch the first CI (critical incident) of the match and set the tone before you ease off on the controls

I find u10 is the start of the rough stuff up until then it is mostly uncoordinated collision, slips or falls and we stop for sniffles to administer comfort.
The 10 to 14 year old has a lot of reckless behaviour, going in to hard, with no real skill set. The emotional response to react to a knock is almost 2nd nature. The screaming parents & coaches will certainly alert you if they believe you are allowing too much pushing or shoving or lax on spotting the obvious fouls. AT ages 15 to 18 they are starting to calculate for payback and aware you might be watching, here we get the step and grinds, ankle bites, hair pulls etc.. Key here step in & ON this, make it a show of your commitment to NOT allow it, to be conscious of it and to act accordingly! I have had to close down play to a crawl to make the point that crap behaviour was simply not going to fly and the judicious use of cards to back it up. I do not know how good you are at reading emotions into faces but generally you can see and feel it develop the key is do not ignore it!

The hard part is physical size differences. I have seen some of the worst instances totally without rancour or desire result in ugly injuries . While refereeing a multisided highschool match I witnessed a grade 12 player (17 with decent beard kick a ball in one direction as a the grade 8 player perhaps 13 kicked away from the other direction. PHYSICs 101 large mass carries through, smaller guy goes airborne, double flip lands ON the ball with his back bent. I hear a loud crack I hammer my whistle thinking Jesus he broke his back blood draining from my heart. It was only his arm busted but in two places very badly . It was a horrible looking collision but as fair and as text book a challenge as any I have ever seen! The ball in the middle, foot to foot either side, both upright but was actually stationary the energy transference placed the smaller player into orbit big guy in tears because the smaller player hurt. Certainly not to blame just what can occur not matter what the intention. I made a BIG deal of ensuring that EVERYONE knew this was a straight up accident, no blame no fault and a drop ball restart.

The most egregious fouls occur when players ram the other guy into the middle of next week by claiming it was shoulder to shoulder. Usually I call the foul often a PK if inside the PA and in these hard cases a caution for the reckless element usually goes hand in hand. I can see and feel the culprit seething at the unfairness (in HIS mind). I have actually suggested to the coach of such players that their irritability translates into aggressive play and since they are on a caution do they really want to leave the guy out here to go redline and down a player? I might say, "15 blue is walking a thin line coach, just letting you know." I have not TOLD him to take him off but I understand why high school often use a caution as reason to sit out players in such cases. I find teenagers often have a greater anger control problem then even the adults.

I have used incidents where two opponents are rattling about, rather than caution or send them off, I tell the coaches that these boys could REALLY use a break. They are obviously sick & tired and looking very yellowish, red spots could appear at any second. Smart coaches sieze the substitution opportunity.

I cannot stress the safety aspect enough but you always need to be there at the point where conflict is originating and nip it at the beginning! Once you lose the control, just like runaway horses hard to reign in!

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Trent
At Underage the priority is safety. Many players just play the game with little physicality and in fact that is what attracts them to the game. In certain games referees are faced with a few players who want to be physical and that is fine within the bounds of what that particular game finds acceptable. I nor anyone else can set the bar for referees as to the level of fair acceptable physicality yet we can and should identify what is a foul. Much contact such as pushing, illegal charging, pulling, kicking, tripping are all fouls so the opportunity to be physical is limited to strong play while playing the ball.
Fouls that go beyond what is an acceptable level of physicality must be sanctioned with a card. Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned. So a player that goes in to a challenge, fouls the opponent in a manner where the player can be hurt there is an onus on referees to ensure that it is properly sanctioned. When it is not sanctioned other players determine that the referee in this game is going to allow recklesslessness in challenges and they will adapt accordingly or in older age groups may decide to take retribution themselves. Once that happens the referee then loses the game with all sorts of problems to be dealt with.
Now my advice is referees is to review their games. What went well and what did not go so well. What caused the greatest difficulty for the game. Was there constant complaints about strong challenges that went unpunished. How were players reacting during the game. Is one team or group of players or one player being overtly physical not in keeping with the game. How was it dealt with. Yes the game has a physical nature yet it also has a limit as to what the participants find acceptable. At younger age groups that limit gets reduced considerably and at Under 15 needs to be managed carefully between allowing strength to come through while at the same time not allowing skill etc to flourish through rough physical play that puts players safety at risk.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 31486
Read other Q & A regarding Mechanics

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.