Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dealing with sideline abuse

Sideline abuse is something we all have witnessed, either in our game or another game near us.

For those of you who were at the ASRA meeting this past Tuesday this will be a bit of a repeat. Doug Cotter, our SRA, gave a great speech outlining the issue of sideline abuse, explaining how it affects all of us (specifically our youth and new referees) and calling us to join together and do something about it. The need to discuss this issue came up at the same time a great article featuring Brian Hall was published on Soccer America's website.

If you haven't already seen the article that featured Brian Hall and the issue of Sideline Abuse check it out here. Because I wasn't able to get permission to re-post the article word for word you'll need to click the link and read it on their website. The points that were brought up in that article have been floating around for a while. If you have traveled to out of state tournaments or know someone who has the concept of "Ask, Tell, Remove" won't be new to you. This process of dealing with sideline behavior has been tested with a great deal of success on MLS Coaches. We can learn from the success and hopefully apply the theory to how we control the benches and the fans.

So what is "Ask, Tell, Remove"? Its an approach that we take with coaches or fans to directly address poor sideline behavior. First, you "ask" the coach to refrain from continuing to behave badly. If this step doesn't fix the issue, you move onto "telling" the coach to stop the behavior and that continuing to act this way will result in his "removal" from the match. Hall makes a great point in the interview which is to leave the coach with the decision in his hands. "If you continue to act this way I will remove you from the game. The decision is yours." That way it is clear what the consequence will be. You don't make the choice, the person misbehaving decides to change (and stay in the game) or leave (carry on with the problem behavior). Remember that if you tell them to stop and it doesn't stop you have no choice but to remove them from the game.

Some of you may already be doing this in your games. If so that's great, keep it up. For many of us this technique can be helpful with not only coaches and fans but also players. You can think of the "ask" part as a verbal warning, the "tell" could be a caution and the "remove" is the ejection. But why do we need to address the sideline behavior? I hear a lot of referees comment that they heard a fan using profanity but it "didn't bother me, so I let it go." Or other times they say that we ignore a problem coach because its the best way to deal with it. Maybe you can handle these things in your game, but that's really not the point. The negative behavior is a detriment to the game and has no place in it. No one enjoys someone yelling profanity or shouting at players rudely. We must deal with this and put an end to it.

Local leagues and the Youth and Adult Associations are working hard on fixing these issues. They need our help to control this problem and they will support our decisions. This is not a directive to go out and send-off both coaches for a mere comment. We must work with coaches respectfully to communicate our expectations. If fans are causing a problem ask for help from coaches or a field marshal (if you're lucky enough to have one) if you don't feel comfortable addressing a fan directly. Never try to start a confrontation. Even if you have to dismiss someone, do it professionally. Keep this in mind when you think to yourself that you can handle the abuse coming from the sideline:

Would you want a youth referee to endure the same treatment?

If the answer is no, deal with it. Cleaning up the sidelines will go a long way towards retaining referees. And for any coach or parent reading this, think about your actions and the actions of those around you this Saturday. How would you feel if those words were directed at your child? Stand up and say something!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


They say it's all in the details and in the world of soccer refereeing that is certainly true.

We talk a lot about the "big decisions" that you, as a referee, must make throughout the game. But anyone who watches a great referee perform knows that its not just the big decisions that separate the good from the amazing. If you pay close attention to that referee you will see small actions form a certain synergy that helps his or her game go smoothly. We'll dig deeper into each element in later posts but for now let's just look at a few easy ones:

Manage your assignments. Especially during the fall season we find ourselves inundated with games. You could practically do several games every day if you were so inclined. That makes it easy to forget about a match or double book yourself. Try your best to keep track of it all. If you have to turn-back an assignment do it as soon as possible and always be polite.

Appearance. Haven't we all heard this one before? Then why does it always come up again? Because people still show up looking shabby. This one is easy and does you a lot of good. Just try it, trust me.

Preparation. It shows when you have done a little research about the two teams before showing up. You seem in control when you know what's riding on a game. Having all your gear with you , allowing enough time to show up to the game and doing a proper pre-game gives creditability to you as a referee. Never do a game that is above your fitness level.

Learn. The is a host of information out there. If you really want to do a great job at this you need to become a student of the game. Don't know where to find more information? Reach out and we'll guide you in the right direction. It's great to see that weird situation in the game that no one knows how to handle and then see a confident referee educate everyone on how it should be resolved.

I'm thinking next week we'll take a close look one of the Laws of the Game that can help us focus on the details. Happy Refereeing!