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Youth Referee Support! Does It Really Exist?

Richard Dawson 1/1/2000

Youth Referee Support! Does It Really Exist?

It takes considerable character to become a good referee. To apply the rules of law within the framework of practical game management is no easy task for the fainthearted.

Nothing is more lethal to young referees? discouragement and abandonment from the game than the dissent and abuse originating from the TouchLine. I have considered the weeding out process of officials to be in part the ability to deal with abuse. Yet, its proliferation, flagrant disrespect and violent conduct on the international scene border on the criminally insane. Inability for individuals to place integrity or safety of the game behind the emotional ugliness of frustration and rage is a sad commentary and perhaps a reflection of our darker nature.

There is little to be gained if our youth referee are told the concepts of fairplay but witness the reality of their own game situations and that of others to be different. "Winning isn?t everything, its how we play the game and have fun!" is in fact a fallacy that does not stand up to the lip service we pay it! If we truly wish to instil the youth with an understanding of the respect and integrity the game demands. We must address some fundamental flaws in the development of soccer officiating programs.

Armed with a limited knowledge of the laws of the game and no practical experience, improper standards place youth referees in jeopardy. Even programs incorporating them as AR?s have little merit if they are not trained correctly.

Certainly many soccer associations and clubs are in various stages of referee development but every effort must be made to SUPPORT the referees with ongoing training, mentoring, evaluations and assessments.

Their skills must be monitorable and when possible simulate game conditions in practice sessions.

Refereeing is a job. It requires hard work and discipline. Like with most paid jobs responsibility goes with the territory, but remember many youth are paid in what is a token amount to off-set the abuse they take on the pitch.

It is unjust and downright idiotic to place youth referees into game situations before they are ready because there is nobody else.

There must be policy and directives in place to properly handle the dissent and abuse when it arises! Can you actually enforce what is agreed upon? Is everyone on the same side when you agree to disagree?

OK, reality check! Lets face the #1 concern

"There is no program to train or protect the young officials."

Far too often, a referee course is held, a few people pass it, next they are refereeing games with no practical training because there is no time, no money, not enough referees and no real concern. Of course, now that you possess a piece of paper certifying you as a youth referee you do not ever have to re-establish your credentials again.

Assistant referees? Ha, barely have enough referees period no chance of three. The best referees of course officiate the more important older kids, so the lower divisions get whomever they can.

The loud obnoxious 6-ft guy coaching whom is having an argument with the young 5-ft Referee is the only person the local league could convince to coach because there was no one else.

Parents along the sideline are furious because little Johnny was hauled down in the penalty area and that referee didn?t call it because he favours the home team.

If a spectator listens very hard, occasionally a whistle is blown loud enough to be actually heard. Since the play is in the goal area and the referee is at the centre kick-off area, where he has been during the entire game the spectator can be sure the referee has not a clue so lets yell. " If you had another eye you would be a Cyclops Ref."

Great, the game is nearly over, but If you?ll call out extremely loud, "offside" and "handball" one more time, it will bring the total number of times to an even one hundred and fifty. "Cannot figure out why the throat is so sore, better have a drink".

"You know that ref., when he left the field he was crying. Well he was not very good. He should not be refereeing. I could do a much better job if I wanted too."

A body and a whistle, good enough for a referee by some standards? Well who is responsible for setting them?

Each referee sets the field for his or her peers to succeed or fail. Referee development is inter- dependant on the coaching and player development and the public education of parents and spectators.

Only the associations, clubs, and nations with the manpower, willpower and integrity will succeed and achieve consistency within their ranks.

We must not set the field for our youth to fail. Let us do what must be done to make their part a success in the spirit of fairplay and for the good of the game.

Best Case Scenarios?

Ideally, the introduction would be as an assistant referee at an appropriate age level (so the AR will not be bored). With a seasoned individual as the centre referee. Then a mentor or assessor along the TouchLine offering encouragement and support.

League officials are patrolling the field for the abusive coaches and parents because those that play coach or watch the game have accepted zero tolerance for abusive or spiteful behaviour as a principle of fairplay.

Place top-notch officials into the younger levels so that players and referees are aware of the standards, educating the players as to the proper conduct and respect the game requires. Use the knowledge and experience of quality referees in practice games alongside the youth referees.

Teach them the difference upon which the AR?s and the Centre Referee view a game. The importance of communication and teamwork required by the officials. Ease them into appropriate game situations as centre referee.

Teach the importance of positioning and staying with the play, understanding of the advantage and correct application of offside. Cautions and ejection?s, how to view fouls and the importance of blowing your whistle.

Use the coaches and players for positive feedback. Game reports, fairplay assessments and evaluations should be conducted regularly. Game management techniques and reviewing videos of themselves and others are part of an insightful program dedicated to providing on going training and support for our future referees.

Why is it so Difficult?

Unfortunately, soccer is not exempt from the social apathy that plagues the world-wide sports venues. Enormous amounts of money, spent by international clubs and national squads with expectations of success produce this hooliganistic nationalistic fervour. Owners and fans demand their talented, highly paid players produce winning, "results orientated clubs"!

Referee?s "Game management" is limited to his or her ability to withstand this pressure exerted by their peers, spectators, coaches, parents, players, political agendas, power agendas, local organisations, lobbyists and news media. I do not believe people have a realistic understanding of the coercion or duress referees are subject to at the elite level of this wonderful, fun GAME.

Hopefully the full disclosure of the difficulties Mr. Esse Baharmast (98World Cup referee) was forced to endure following a disputed penalty call during the final minutes of the Brazil versus Norway match in the 98 World Cup will provide some insight.

Growing up in Iran, Esse had dreams of playing soccer in the Olympics and being centre stage at the world cup but an unfortunate accident prevented him from achieving that dream as a player. Rather than succumb to morose and heartache he chose a career as a referee and achieved his dreams in doing both. A credit to the determination and spirit of the man himself.

Educated in the United States at a time when relations with Iran were somewhat friendlier than in recent years. His integrity and dedication to his profession earned him the respect of many if not all of the worlds soccer officials and a berth, centre stage in the two most recognised sports venues in the world, the 96 Olympics and The 98 World Cup

With Morocco beating Scotland 3-0, a tie or loss by Norway against Brazil (who had all ready qualified) would put them through to the next round. A billion and a half people watched their TV screens in disbelief as the referee called a foul in the last minutes of the game. Norway scored on the resulting penalty shot and advanced ahead of Morocco beating Brazil 2 to 1. Replay after Replay showed the Norwegian player diving to the ground in what looked like a marginal challenge from the Brazilian Player in the penalty area. How could the Referee make such a call in such a decisive game? Mr Baharmast next 36 hours were quite bluntly an assassination on his integrity, his honesty and his very future in the sport he loved.

Following the game Esse was not aware of the implications his late penalty call was going to generate until the world press vilified him with the most outrageous comments and press releases attacking his character calling it an imaginary penalty, conspiracy against the African nations. Emotionally distraught fans hurled death threats and obscene telephone calls. FIFA officials had written him off as a bad call and in their usual cowardly fashion suggested it was time for him to disappear, officially sanctioned from the world scene. Many of his peers were shaking their heads publicly saying too bad you messed up. Only those who really knew the man and believed in his decision, knew that the call was just and needed no explanation.

One cannot really imagine that on a single incident when you as an individual will be judged guilty for all time since you can not defend what the cameras saw or rather didn?t see. The darkening storm clouds threatened Esse"s career defining moment. The rainbow appeared as if by magic. Completely exonerating Esse to the point where the media, public officials and his peers suddenly rallied to the incredible courage and guts it took to make such an astoundingly correct call. Shouldn?t he be allowed to referee all the important games including the final. FIFA officials who had cast him aside suddenly were pointing to the Internet pictures (acquired by his wife and friends in the US) as firm evidence Esse had been correct in his call and were solidly behind him as only fair-weathered friends can be.

If you as a reader have never viewed this incident, I suggest you do so. There is a downloadable version of the video on the site WWW.NRK.NO/VM98. I purposely left out the details because the foul is not the issue. The belief in our integrity as referees that one of our own would lie and cheat, to what end I can not fathom, but the willingness to believe the lie instead of the truth because truth is rarely as clear as that wonderful camera shot from behind the net

The Hand-held camera behind the goal and the teamwork of friends vindicated not only the decision but also the true measure of integrity and courage it takes to not only play the game but to officiate it effectively under tension and inquisition by your peers, players, coaches, spectators and politically correct agendas be it world-wide, countrywide, provincewide or townwide

In a recent article, " 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 player sees what he feels
2 coach sees what he wants to see
3 spectator sees what they think they see
4 Referee sees what he sees,

I can not recall another incident in which these views were so clearly illustrated.

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