In last month’s Club Newsletter, we explored our Respect for our Opponents and ways that we could improve the game by extending our respect to each player and every team we face. This month we continue our efforts to Honor the Game through respecting the ROOTS by looking at our relationship with the Officials.
Late September and early October’s crisp sunny weather has provided great weekends for soccer. In addition to all of the regular season games on the schedule, the past month has seen our Kings Hammer teams participate in a number of tremendous events; providing hundreds of teams from throughout the region the opportunity to compete.
All this action has people talking about great games, brilliant goals, and superb saves. Unfortunately, many conversations I have heard have also been centered on the large number of games disrupted by inappropriate, and in some cases, abusive behavior centered on the referees. For some reason, when the whistle blows to start the game many players, coaches, and spectators seem to lose appreciation (and respect) for those responsible for overseeing the game.
And this problem is not isolated just to soccer. The continued lack of respect for officials can be seen every weekend at any sporting event, club, AAU, HS, college, and yes even the pros (watch an FC Cincy game for perfect examples, or go to any hockey game, where the officials are booed as soon as they are introduced…PRIOR to the game!)
In a recent address to her members, Dr Karissa Neihoff, the president of the National Federation of State High School Associations, talks about the problems faced in all sports across the nation (see link below.) In the video Dr Niehoff addresses the results of frequent abuse of referees-a national shortage of officials resulting in numerous cancellations, postponements, or relocations of games and match. I am sure many of you have faced similar problems recently to your events.
In order to ensure that we continue to develop, and keep, referees at all levels we all need to work together to create a more RESPECTFUL environment. Let’s start with agreements every family has already made when they sign up their child.
Responsibilities of a KHSC Parent (spectator)
-excerpt from the Kings Hammer Soccer Club Parent Code of Conduct
- Parent agrees to set a good example by modeling the highest standard of sportsmanship.
- Parent agrees to refrain from using foul language at club events and from abusing, harassing, or berating players, coaches, referees, opponents, or spectators.
Another step may be to understand more about the referees we see each weekend. Here are some indisputable facts regarding the men, women, boys, and girls out on fields throughout the season working to officiate youth soccer matches:
- They ARE PEOPLE!
- They are sons and daughters, mothers, and fathers
- They are likely working or going to school in the community where they are refereeing
- Many of them are getting started at middle school age
- They do not make a living refereeing youth soccer
- They are out there because they LOVE the game
- They want to get every call correct but will miss a few every game
- They have one set of eyes and 14, 18, or 22 players to keep them on
- They don’t care which team wins or loses, only that both teams participate fairly and safely
- They are being verbally abused nearly every game by spectators, coaches, and players
- The game CANNOT be played without THEM
Finally, take some time to encourage everyone at our games to find ways to avoid inappropriate or abusive behaviors. Check out the link to “Your Playbook for the Game” from Liberty Mutual in addition to these actions:
Suggested Ways to Avoid Yelling at Referees
- Stand away from the sidelines
- Be in charge of videotaping the game for the team. Knowing you could be heard on camera lessens the likelihood of inappropriate comments
- Have paper and a pen (large marker is best.) Anytime you feel the urge to yell, or scream write the comment down…then tear it up
- Bring lollipops. Anytime you feel the need to comment stick a sucker in your mouth.
As a club, we are committed to supporting our referees and providing an environment that is respectful of the efforts they make to keep our games fair, safe, and fun. We are reviewing options for how to effectively encourage appropriate behavior from players, coaches, and spectators of every match. We are also exploring additional steps which may be taken when participants or spectators cross the line and are unable to maintain the level of respect and restraint needed to maintain a positive experience for everyone.
Additional Resources on Respect of Officials
- YouTube- The Referee ~ The FA Respect Campaign
- NFHS Video Voice Oct 12 2022-Bench Bad Behavior
- Mike and Christine Golic-Role of Parents in Sports
- Soccer America-Rugby Can Show Soccer the Way on Emotional Dissent