I can’t help but think that while the vast majority of youth soccer referees make honest mistakes, some just relish being jerks about it. While this has been, in my experience, far and away the exception, it’s still causing parents heartburn. Referees tolerate a LOT of abuse from fans/parents which is uncalled for. But sometimes they do things that leave you scratching your head. Lisa at LDSM Soccer Mom had a few choice words for an official at her son’s recent high school match:

Note to High School Refs: Y’all pretty much suck for the most part and would be better off handing out smilie faces to snot-nosed toddlers at the Wal-Mart entrance. And it is NOT all about you. Let the kids play, please. Giving a player a second yellow 20 minutes into the game for scoring a sweet goal against his rival high school team, during his senior year, and then getting excited about it, is ridiculous. And you know it. I bet most refs were the kids who got picked last for sports in school.

PS: We WON, and I still feel like this.

Her son got his 2nd yellow after an unassisted goal against his school’s rivals at an away match. After the goal, he ran along the sideline by the home bleachers, with his arms spread out, celebrating. Bang – yellow card.

I sometimes think we’re working WAY too hard to makes kids conform and force them to not get excited – for anything. Unless a celebration is way over the line, let it go and let the kids play. You gotta love his style – after being ejected, the player left his bright colored boots in front of his team’s bench as a reminder of his goal. Outstanding.

Now contrast this with a recent experience I had. My U10s are playing and I need to substitute some players. We got the ball for a throw-in and substituted (in our league you can only sub in when you have possession of the ball during a stoppage). The other team subbed as well so there was a fair delay. When the referee restarted the match, he gave the ball to the OTHER team. Now we were in firm control of the match so I think the extent of my reaction was outstretched arms saying ‘How is it their ball if we subbed?’ Again – not a huge deal, but for a moment I was wondering if I’d imagined us getting the ball. A throw in lost in a match we were winning and won – not a huge deal (actually most lost throw ins don’t have much impact on a match’s outcome).

Yet at the end of the match when the referee came to get the match report signed, he apologized. He said something akin to “I’m sorry about that throw in. I totally blew that because it definitely was your ball on the restart. I just got confused.” Wasn’t going to change anything, even if we lost because of that call. But the referee admitted he had made a mistake and apologized. Is that such a hard thing to do?

Clearly, referees endure a LOT of abuse from parents and most of the calls the parents and coaches complain/scream/argue about, the referee made the right call and the people upset don’t know the rules or didn’t see what the ref saw. But that doesn’t mean referees should be untouchable and act as if they’re inhuman. We all make mistakes and if you admit a mistake, even if nothing can be done about it, you’ve earned my respect as a coach more so than a record breaking sequence of correct calls.

Nothing profound I guess. Referees endure way too much abuse. But that doesn’t mean they can’t admit a mistake once in a while.