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“HEY REF…How can you make such a call?”

Nubber’s Nuggets: Sportsmanship from the stands

By: Cliff McCrath, Executive Director NW Soccer Camp and Second winningest coach in Collegiate Soccer

“HEY REF…How can you make such a call?”

The next time you as a player, fan or parent shout at a referee, you might want to add this title question to many of the ones most frequently heard  “Hey ref, are you out of your mind?” “C’mon ref, she/he fouled our player!” “Hey ref, you missed that one!” “How could you not see that?” “Blow your whistle, Ref!”

These are just a few of the near-expletives that have been heard and echoed through the ages. Ever since William Bendix starred in the 1950 black and white classic “Kill the Umpire” it’s become a cultural obsession to “boo” the umpire or referee. When it comes to soccer, the referee is the only arbitrator of a sporting event whose every decision is open to challenge - by everyone! Fans in the stands believe their presence at the game entitles them to indict, convict and sentence the referee’s EVERY DECISION!!

Look at it this way: If players in basketball, football, baseball – all sports? challenged a referee’s ‘call’ - like soccer players gathered around a referee they would get “hit” with technical fouls or have yardage marched off for unsporting conduct; heck, in baseball, if a batter even questions a called strike he/she is ejected! BUT NOT SOCCER!

The facts are that soccer requires one of the largest playing areas of any sport with the least amount of officiating charged with managing the game. The rules state that the referee is “the sole judge” when the game begins. Officials have to pass tests for fitness and knowledge of the rules in order to qualify for a job.  The roles demand that he/she safeguard two primary requisites: 1. Safety of the players and, 2. enforcing the rules!  So next time when you want to yell at the ref, just remember the ref is a human and is there to provide a fair, safe and enjoyable environment for the game.

A Parent’s Guide to Sportsmanship

  • The game is for the children not the adults.
  • Treat others with respect. 
  • Using bad language or issuing personal attacks is never beneficial.
  • Show coaches and officials appreciation for the time they are investing into your child's youth sports experience. 
  • The example you set interacting with coaches, officials, and other parents or players teaches young athletes what is appropriate in sports and life.
  • Put the emotional and physical well-being of child ahead of the desire to win.
  • Don't look for others to blame after losses.  Learn from each experience and constructively discuss ways to improve.
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