­­­­You’ve all been at a match like this. The kids are playing, trying their best, and a parent or two are stalking up and down the touchline, shouting instructions to their children constantly. Sometimes their kids ignore them, other times they are distracted by it. Their coach seems indifferent to it. You want to say something, but feel out of place as the parent is from another team. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else could say something if their coach won’t? How about the referee? And even better, what if during halftime, that referee chatted with the parents and gave them a little Laws of the Game quiz to see how well th­ey understand the rules and perhaps learn something. itsaboutthekids over at the NC-Soccer Forum did this very thing recently:

After two game of this I’ve heard enough [parent coaching]. Prior to game #3 I make an announcement to the parents. Something to the effect “Parents, I’m challenging you to resist the urge to coach your players during this game. The constant comments from the parents takes away from the enjoyment of the game for the players. It creates confusion when conflicting directions come from opposite sides of the field. Soccer is a fluid game in which players have to make split second decisions. Soccer is unique in that regard – the players have to think and execute. Please allow the boys to enjoy their game without coaching from this sideline”

There were a few parents that seemed shocked that this meant them. There were some that thanked me for taking that step. At half time I spoke again to the parents. I thanked them for their effort in the first half then gave them a brief “Laws of the Game quiz”. We had fun, they learned a little something (I hope) and the boys got to play this game with minimal interference from mom & dad. After the game I thanked the parents for their effort. I think some were amazed that a ref would talk to them. Usually the ref only speaks to parents when their behavior gets out of hand.

Parents want to do the right thing for their children. As a referee if I can help make the game more enjoyable for everyone (including me) I think it’s the least I can do. I would encourage more refs and more coaches to take the time to educate the parents. It take so little time to make a difference for the kids.

What a fantastic idea.

I’m not saying this should be a referee responsibility, but if you’re comfortable with the parents and think you can enlighten a few, it will only help future referees avoid parents shouting about missed calls when they really don’t understand the rules.

So if you were to suggest questions for a referee halftime LOTG quiz, what would they be? Here are a few I thought of:

  1. A ball is kicked by a player on team A into the arm of a player from team B, and then rolls into space. Should the referee call a handball?
  2. A player is standing near the corner of the field offside as a teammate dribbles towards the goal, shoots, and scores. Should the goal be disallowed for offside?
  3. A player from team A plays the ball back towards her own goal, thinking a defender is there to receive it. Instead an offside player from team B intercepts the ball and scores. Shoudl offside be called?
  4. What three restarts of play allow for the ball to be played to an offside player?
  5. A few advantage scenarios for sure.
  6. A keeper dives to save a shot and the ball stops with the bottom of the ball about two inches past the back of the goal line. Is it a goal?
  7. A defender comes up on a dribbling player from the side and pokes the ball away. The dribbling player then trips over their leg. Is it a foul?

What questions would you add to a referee’s collection so they could ask different ones each week? And ­I would pay $20 for this T-Shirt for my kids.