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Question Number: 32498

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/8/2018

RE: Competitive Under 10

William Giannattasio of Lancaster, MA US asks...

At this age, if a player feels the need to protect their chest by crossing their arms, would that still be considered a hand ball or would that be a discretionary call from the referee?

Thanks in advance!

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi William,
Still a discretionary call as far as I'm concerned. I feel you can give a little more leeway to younger players in terms of some offences due to the fact that in general they are less in control of their bodies than older players but that doesn't mean they get a free pass on everything. If the ball is coming at them from a relatively short distance, you might choose not to penalise such an action but if the ball is coming from far enough away, even a 10 year-old might be expected to get out of the way - or try to adjust their body position so they can make a legal play on the ball.

Your match, your decision, your reputation.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi William
It is always going to be a discretionary call. However as players get older they would be expected to adjust to the flight of the ball by avoiding it or anticipate what is likely to happen or play the ball as normal.
A referee should not allow a player to use their arms to assist in playing the ball such as a charge down. The player by moving TO the ball has deliberately used arms their arms to assist in playing the ball. Reacting to a ball that comes to the player is somewhat different. In the US there is the added complication of the no heading rule up to Under 11 which will limit how a high ball can be played.
Now something that has become a habit at younger age groups can prove difficult to stop doing as players get older. Girls in particular can be coached from a young age to use crossed arms for protection so as they get older they may continue to do this.
In general I would be more generous on an instinctive protective reaction as opposed to a contrived deliberate action of crossed arms.
I suspect that if players in every team in a particular league are doing this then referees as a group have to respond collectively. There is no point in one referee going on a solo run when every other referee is doing something different such as allowing it!

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Personally I'm opposed to this. It's up to the coach to teach them properly.
Fear of misjudging a ball doesn't mean you can deliberately use your arms instead. Crossing your arms in front of your chest with the intent of using that to control the ball is a deliberate decision to use your arms. Either use the body, or find another way to control the ball.
Of course though, players are allowed to protect themselves from the ball - this is a reflex action, and at a young age you'll give them much more leeway. Players will often put arms across the body in response to a nearby kick. Certainly use discretion here - be wary of the arms that are coming out to the ball - but players shouldn't be making a conscious decision as the ball is coming from some distance to use their arms instead of the body. At such a young age, you'll want to be very generous on the accidental or self-protective reflexes.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Will,
The aspect of determining the difference between a deliberate attempt to play the ball versus an instinctive protective action is really a crucial aspect in a developing referee decision making as it can result in unwarranted scoring options from a simple contact of arm and ball.

Younger players generally get a bit of a pass on reacting to the ball. I had a 10 year old place their hands/arms on top/over their head because in the USA kids are NOT permitted to head the ball. So he tried to protect his head on a high arcing ball coming down from above ! LOL sigh

We generally use awareness, space, time and speed as reasoning to arrive at decisions. In a defensive wall kids crossing arms in front of groin or chest or face are fine. What is not fine is if they push at or try to knock the ball down by moving into the ball or extending the arms out. If they turn or flinch and a ball catches the elbow to shoulder area is not a foul.

I caution all kids though my using the solid arm cross as a rebounding platform by running into or charging the ball down is ALWAYS a foul as it is premeditated deliberate actions not instinctive safety responses.


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