My six year old son is playing soccer. He is loving it. I think the best part of the game for him is the jumping chest bump and high fives after one of his teammates scores a goal followed by snacks at the end of the game with scoring goals a close third. I’ve been at the field in a new role, spectator and I’m still adjusting to it.
Let’s go through a few scenarios:
A) At the field next to you, the sixteen year old referee makes a brilliant no-call with three minutes left in a tied game between Red and White. Red had the ball in White’s box and was moving towards goal. White defender stepped in front of Red, kicked the ball into the next field (sending several 6 year olds chasing it instead of their ball) and feet got tangled. The referee called a throw-in despite first impression that there was a tripping foul that would have been rewarded with a PK. Game ends three minutes later still tied. What do you say to the referee as she walks by your field?
B) At the field behind yours, the fifteen year old referee is blowing chunks. They’re trying hard, running and keeping up with play but they just are not seeing seemingly obvious fouls in a U-10 game. Both teams’ parents are getting aggrieved. What do you do?
C) One of your son’s teammate’s parents are in luck today. Their 6 year old is playing on a field next to their 12 year old. The 12 year old’s team is being refereed by a full three ref crew which means offsides is being called. Over the course of the first half, the AR nearest to us has called offsides 10 to 12 times. From my angle, I was unsure about one but everything else looks good. After the 2nd half, the AR called several offsides against your fellow parent’s kid. They get frustrated… what do you do?
Answers below the fold:
A) Do you know the referee? If yes, than you can get away with saying sincerely “Good Game!” or “Nice Call at the end.” If you do not know the referee, she does not need to here from a parent so say nothing but be ready to smile if/when she ever gets assigned to a game that your kid is playing.
B) Saying nothing is good idea. If you need to calm someone down, make the point that the referee needs to learn and that no one is getting directly recruited to the US National Team from a Saturday morning rec league game. If and when you pass by the referee who had a shitty game and knows that they had a shitty game, they don’t need to hear from you.
C) Saying nothing is the wise decision for as soon as you demonstrate that you know what the hell the offside rules are, you are the designated team parent offside explainer for the next eight to ten years. Habits developed as a front-row kid in school are hard to get rid of so I know what my new job is.
I am sensing a pattern in those answers…
When in doubt, STFU.
Since, a) I don’t know much about soccer and b) non of these incidents appear to involve my grandson’s team, I’ll go with:
How sure are we about this? Have you seen the USMNT lately? ;)
Particularly when you’re anywhere near the offside rule.
Total soccer parent fail. You are there to complain and give expert opinions, distinctly and frequently. No orange slices for you!
I’ve been out there for [finishes fingers, moves to toes]…however long to mint a HS junior. I had to revert to photography to keep myself busy and away from parents. One does observe and learn a lot, orbiting the pitch.
p.s. Glad to have your posts back, they’ve been missed. Am just beginning to understand the game; man, there’s a lot going on.
O/T R.I.P. Tony Joe White.
I love this entire post:
-as a parent of a 6 yr old new soccer player
-as a former 15 and 16 year old referee
-as an introvert who prefers to err on the side of “nah, speaking up probably not worth it”,
And most of all,
-as someone who understands offsides rules AND the difficulty explaining anything more complex than a bumper sticker to an average human.
Good advice for a lot of situations.
Old Dan and Little Ann
I’ve been working the scoreboard for several years for a varsity team. I get to hear the 2 refs bullshit bedore games and during halftime. I also get to listen to both coaches bitch and moan for 80 minutes. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a ref. I’ll do the scoreboard for $50, though.
U10 (7v7) girls travel coach here. Middle skill level division. Always liked You Be The Ref.
Our town has a strict STFU don’t say anything to the ref policy, a lot of them are teenagers. Our first game no offsides was being called at all, so at some point I did a “Um… offsides?” and the kid said he was told there’s no enforcement of offsides in U10. Opposing coach and I look at each other. “I could call it,” ref says. “Yes, please” we respond in unison.
Our league has a couple weird rules for U10. Non-kicking team on goal kicks have to retreat to their half until the ball is in play, with the result that every goal kick looks like an NFL punt return play with no fair catch. Some refs enforce “until ball is in play” as leaving the penalty area, which on slow miskicks takes forever. Generally, every coach I’ve dealt with is good to refs. Less so some parents.
Wanted to take advantage of a fresh Open Thread.
Some you will have seen that our beloved efgoldman commented briefly on an earlier thread, and many joyfully welcomed him back to the jackal fold.
Not long after that, he phoned me. He sounds much stronger than he did a few weeks ago, which is great news. He’s been moved to a different facility — I think maybe more of a physical rehab place. I didn’t get the name of the place or a mailing address, and the only phone number I have is the generic switchboard one. Will try to get those details in the next few days to share privately with those of you who want to send a card or give him a call in the next few weeks.
He has a laptop and WiFi but uses it only when he is in a chair, not when he’s in bed. And because it’s hard for him to predict just when he’ll be where, he doesn’t know when he might show up to comment and converse. Also, if he’s been commenting and then suddenly disappears, not to worry — it means the nurses have decided it’s his bedtime. He’ll be back the next day!
He asked me to tell everyone that he misses us. He’s grateful for the get-well cards and notes and phone calls he got in the other hospital.
Just wanted to catch everyone up. Will let you know as soon as I can provide the new contact information.
Now back to your regularly-scheduled soccer game ⚽️
Red kicks ball into white’s box. White to mate in 5 moves.
Seriously, I know nothing about the game.
@Old Dan and Little Ann: I did the scoreboard for my daughter’s basketball games, ages ago. I got roped into it when the coaches were looking for a parent, and my wife volunteered me. I sucked at it at first, but got okay (I think) at it; it isn’t rocket surgery.
After that first game, my wife told me that she knew how to run the scoreboard because she did it in high school, wasn’t in the mood to do it now, so tossed her husband to the wolves. Thanks honey!
Also taking advantage of a fresh Open Thread.
I posted Monday that my wife had basically just cut her parents off from us (and their two toddler grandkids) because of their politics, their racism, and their refusal to discuss either and insist that WE were the poor deluded ones being lied to while the Republicans are the party of honesty and integrity.
Just a quick follow up on that: My siblings-in-law have talked to my wife repeatedly and they’re on her side, though I don’t think they’re mentioning that to their parents. Everyone is trying to come up with some level of ‘homework’ or a path that the grandparents can take to regain access to their grandkids (whom they love), but my wife is incredibly worried about young kids who are about to go to a spanish immersion school learning racism from their grandparents, even in subtle ways. Popular suggestions are asking them to turn off Fox/Breitbart/Limbaugh for 6 months and watch BBC or CNN or something – also to make him watch the “The Brainwashing of My Dad” and see where his kids are coming from and how painful it is to see their dad turn into a committed ideologue.
I will say that my wife is actually happier now that she’s not worrying about interacting with her parents during holidays. Says she already feels less stressed out.
It’s possible to watch kids soccer for years and learn nothing about the game and its arcane rules. Extends to a lot of sports, now that I think of it.
On the other end of the spectrum I’m really primed for the 2019 WWC, as I think the level of play will be unequalled. Several really good teams now.
Exxxxcellent. [/M. Burns voice] Thanks.
@SiubhanDuinne: Oh, phew. I’m glad he’s doing better. I won’t pretend I was constantly thinking about him, but I was definitely worried and I’m glad to hear he’s on a good path. Hope he can pop in here sometime and give us an update “in person” as soon as he feels better.
My daughter is a 15-year-old ref. At a recent U-10girls’ game, White’s assistant coach was mocking the speech patterns of Red’s head coach. Red HC, wondering who the coach was, checked White’s roster and found no AC listed. Red HC walked into White’s sideline area, confronted White AC and demanded that White AC move to the other side of the field. After some loud discussion, White AC decided to move. Slowly.
As he rounded the goal line of the spectator side, White scored. White AC stopped walking and began gloating loudly. Ref asked White AC to please hurry up and complete his transit. Red parent stood up and confronted White AC. White parent, husband to White HC, stood up and joined the fray. White HC saw a fight developing and asked referee to intervene. What does referee do?
One of the things like about rugby is that only the two team captains are allowed to talk to the ref.
Having been involved in my daughters’ sports stuff years ago, I can say that refereeing a kids’ game is truly a thankless job. Yelling at the official only teaches your own kid that the way to prevail is to scream and act unpleasant- in other words, act like a Republican. I think it’s better being kind to the ref, and explaining to the kid(s) that humans make mistakes (and maybe weren’t well enough prepared for the job).
@Chet: Send the parent off.
Old Dan and Little Ann
@RobertB: I know a helluva lot more basketball than soccer and I won’t work the bball games. No thanks.
The referee is never paid to get punched.
The referee is there to facilitate a safe and fair game for the rostered players.
If an off the field confrontation develops, the referee should encourage players to stay away. Then they should take notes as to wtf is happening. If in the opinion of the referee the game can not be safely resumed, abandoning the match is a plausible decision.
At the soonest possible instance, the referee should call their assignor and file a report to the league and/or state soccer committee with a CC to assignor, other crew members and parents.
I still remember when my 2nd-grade daughter (who is now in her thirties, so a while ago) was playing in a co-ed indoor league, being refereed by a very responsible ninth-grader. The ninth-grader made a call, I don’t even remember what, that seemed reasonable, and one parent who disagreed took to haranguing the poor young referee. He WOULD NOT SHUT UP. As you say, “no one is getting directly recruited to the US National Team from a Saturday morning rec league game”. This was an age group where the score wasn’t even officially being kept.
Other parents were trying to tell the dad to let it go. The young referee was nervously standing his ground. These days, I have seen youth baseball umpires (adults) actually eject a parent, but in those days there was no one to intervene. What would you have done?
Dorothy A. Winsor
Interesting analysis of what to do. My theory is that no one ever hears enough that they did a good job, so I try to tell people when they do. But I can see it’s best to stay out of some situations.
@FelonyGovt: My kids are getting to the point where they’re going to start participating in sports in the next year or two. I’m entirely unwilling to engage on more than a “I’m a parent and here to support you” level, and I ever referee or start yelling at somebody over something less than an egregious physical foul you have my permission to …. I don’t know. Do something bad. Take my car?
@David Anderson: Good answer. Referee stopped the game and stood staring at the arguing parents until they backed away from each other. Play resumed and the game concluded without further incident. After the game, referee reminded Red HC that any roster questions should be handled through the referee. Red assistant coach (not involved in the incident at all) marveled at referee’s maturity. Referee’s dad was proud of referee, and wished White AC could act as sportsmanlike as the 10-year-olds on the field.
Ref filed her report immediately. It turns out neither coaches nor referee was aware of new club policies that make coaches responsible for parent behavior. So White HC should not have asked referee to intervene—she should have stopped her husband and assistant from fighting with the other club’s parents herself.
Quaker in a Basement
Or: “DaaaAAAD! You’re embarrassing me!”
@MisterForkbeard: Oh, good for your wife. If she already feels less stressed/more excited about the holidays, then she made the right choice. I don’t see any reason why racists need to be accommodated. And little kids DO pick up on that kind of language and behavior easily. You don’t want to be responsible for that.
Refing was horrible for me. Choosing the name of the team and coaching were great. The run ins with parents were memorable, almost Jungian in their high ridiculousness. What a game!
@SiubhanDuinne: Good news, thank you.
As a hockey dad I sometimes chat with the ref. Usually small talk, sympathizing.
The only negative feedback I ever gave was “if you decide to blow your whistle, don’t be shy, make sure all players can hear you”.
@SiubhanDuinne: It was good to see his comments earlier today(I saw them after the threads were long dead).
@trollhattan: RIP. I always loved Poke Salad Annie and that wasn’t even the best song on that record.
Fine answers all.
I used to think explaining offsides to youth soccer parents was painful. Then I discovered trying to explain foil right-of-way to youth fencing parents.
Best advise in life. Except when young people are talking about not voting because there’s “no difference” between the parties.
Steve in the ATL
If your kids’ team is rife with hot soccer moms, then it’s not only possible but quite easy!
Also, I am not a pig.
West of the Cascades
Some context for Q/A # 3 — this is the Offside Law (Law # 11) in soccer (from the U.K. Football Association at http://www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-11—offside):
Law 11 Offside
It is not an offence to be in an offside position.
A player is in an offside position if:
any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered.
A player is not in an offside position if level with the:
second-last opponent or
last two opponents
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched* by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:
interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
interfering with an opponent by:
preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
challenging an opponent for the ball or
clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
*The first point of contact of the ‘play’ or ‘touch’ of the ball should be used
gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent
been deliberately saved by any opponent
A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.
A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area).
In situations where:
a player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball; if the player moves into the way of an opponent and impedes the opponent’s progress (e.g blocks the opponent) the offence should be penalised under Law 12
a player in an offisde position is moving towards the ball with the intention of playing the ball and is fouled before playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the foul is penalised as it has occurred before the offside offence
an offence is committed against a player in an offside position who is already playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the offside offence is penalised as it has occurred before the foul challenge
There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:
a goal kick
a corner kick
Offences and sanctions
If an offside offence occurs, the referee awards an indirect free kick where the offence occurred, including if it is in the player’s own half of the field of play.
A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play or until the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside their penalty area. If the player left the field of play deliberately, the player must be cautioned when the ball is next out of play.
An attacking player may step or stay off the field of play not to be involved in active play. If the player re-enters from the goal line and becomes involved in play before the next stoppage in play, or the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside their penalty area, the player shall be considered to be positioned on the goal line for the purposes of offside. A player who deliberately leaves the field of play and re-enters without the referee’s permission and is not penalised for offside and gains an advantage, must be cautioned.
If an attacking player remains stationary between the goalposts and inside the goal as the ball enters the goal, a goal must be awarded unless the player commits an offside offence or Law 12 offence in which case play is restarted with an indirect or direct free kick.
FIFA has a 37-page powerpoint to explain it at https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/afdeveloping/refereeing/law_11_offside_en_47383.pdf
15-year parent coach here on my final daughter who is now playing U13 recreational soccer. Between my 3 daughters I’ve coached from U5 where the coaches are on the field with the players moving them around like chess pieces up to U14 rec. When olded moved up to select travel soccer I stayed WAY away from coaching duties. One of her teams had a hired coach, the other was parent coached. I have never refereed but I have coached about 300-400 youth rec games over the years.
1. In every league I have ever participated in it has ALWAYS been the coaches duty to maintain order among his/her parents. It is most certainly not the role of a 15 year old kid referee to deal with parent disputes on the sideline. The one time in my 15 years that this has ever been an issue was years ago during probably a U8 girls game. When two parents were getting ridicuously out of hand I motioned to the youth referee to call a time out, grabbed the other head coach whom I knew, and marched across the field to rip those two parents a new asshole. I told them if we ever saw any of that kind of nonsense again I would report it to the league office and get them all banned from the complex while the other coach nodded and agreed.
2. At the younger ages recreational leagues, lots of rules can be flexibly enforced. The most common issues are keeping the feet down on throw-ins, offsides, and goal kicks. The FIFA rule against goalkeepers using their hands when the ball is passed back by their own teammate can also rarely come up but most youth referees never enforce that rule.
3. Youth rules can be vague to begin with. I haven’t even looked at the rulebook here in WA but when I was coaching in a rec league in TX I studied the league rules and other than the specific youth rules about field size, number of players, game length, and headers they rulebooks mostly just deferred to FIFA rules. So the extent to referees want to enforce every rule ends up being somewhat subjective.
4. The only parents who should ever interact with referees in any way are the coaches. The coaches have the opportunity to interact with the referee pre-game during the roster and gear checks and that is the time to bring up issues like how they will be calling offsides and throw-ins and such. After the game I always shake hands and thank the referees. If I have anything constructive to say to a 15 year old referee I might gently suggest it at that time while at the same time thanking them.
4. Some older referees take it upon themselves to teach rules as they go. So, for example, the first illegal throw-in they may whistle the play to a stop and give it back to the same player to try again with instructions to keep their feet on the ground. Sometimes they only do that on the first throw-in and announce to all they players that they will be calling it from that point forwards. I just go with the flow. If they want to teach rules and give second chances, fine. If not, fine.
5. From about U10 and up you really have to start calling offsides, at least during flagrant cherry picking plays. But there is also sort of an unstated agreement among coaches not to aggressively run offsides trap plays because that is just super annoying at the young ages. But you really need linesmen to do it properly and during younger age games there is often only one referee on the field. I have only had the pass-back to a goalkeeper hands foul called once on one of my teams even though it happens somewhat frequently, often by accident. I teach my goalkeepers what the rule is but don’t really worry about it.
6. I think parents tend to be much worse during boys games than girls games. Pretty much all the times I have seen ugly obnoxious parents on the sideline during games at the complex it has been during boys games.
Steve in the ATL
@MisterForkbeard: yeah, it’s easy to say “I’m a well adjusted adult and don’t get worked up about little kids playing soccer!” until some punk slide tackles your daughter. Also, if you are competitive at all it takes some effort to suppress that urge, even though you know it’s only little kids playing soccer and truly doesn’t matter. And if your team parents are lawyers and corporate execs and business owners and former athletes…it can get bad.
And baseball people think the infield fly rule is hard to explain.
Regarding Question #3 on offsides. West of the Cascades rightly points out how complex and subtle the rule is. From my experience, where most parents go wrong or misunderstand is that a player who is in offsides position is not necessarily offsides. So the minute a player is standing in offside position they start yelling offsides even though the play might still be 50 yards away at the other end of the field. When I’m not coaching I will explain this to other parents. Usually when they are screaming “offsides” about some opposing player and the 14 year old AR on the sideline is trying to ignore them.
Just One More Canuck
@Omnes Omnibus: That actually happened at one of my daughter’s games this summer (U13 competitive) – a parent on the other team was chirping the ref the entire first half, and started up again as soon as the second half started The ref finally had enough and tossed him, to the amusement of both sets of parents. I know a couple of the parents on that team, and they both said that the guy is a giant pain in the ass
@West of the Cascades:
All you Americans, please remember that it is called “offside” in football, not “offsides”. “Offsides”, if I recall correctly, is what they call it in the gridiron sport.
Cathie from Canada
From my days as a competitive softball parent and tournament organizer, the very worst players were the 10 to 11 year olds – the first year they could play on the competitive leagues. And their parents were the worst too – they didn’t know the rules, they seemed to expect the kids to never make an error or strike out, and these leagues also got the youngest and least experienced umpires. All in all, it was the most challenging group to handle. And some of the grandparents were even worse!
@Cathie from Canada: I enjoyed reffing U-12 Classic (the first reasonably competitive developmental levels) as the kids were still listening to the coaches and the games had a certain flow to them most of the time.
I hated reffing U-15 boys — strong enough to hurt people, dumb enough to think it was fun to do. We also had to deal with floppy baby giraffe bodies where legs and heads weren’t always agreeing which direction to go in.
@Michael Cain: Worse yet, foil right-of-way has evolved/been defined to give much higher priority to moving forward than to extended arm. So when I took it up again around 2005 after a decade or so of hiatus, things that would have been clear stop-thrusts or counterattacks in time were utterly dismissed by directors.
I remember asking, with some incredulity, whether advancing with my arm drooped by my side would be considered an attack with right-of-way and being told Yes, indeed it was. (I am still not completely convinced that everyone who was a party to the discussion understood and was understood. It took place in Tbilisi; neither their English nor my Georgian was up to a fencing discussion, so we conducted it in our limited fencing-French. But still.)
Unlearning reflexes was a complete pita, and then I splatted my knee on some concrete and ice in ’14, so I probably won’t get back to it without some surgery.
In regard to A, when I was a ref in high school (so much better than McD’s for one of a teen’s first jobs!), I would have been pleased as punch if an experienced ref on the sidelines had noticed a call/non-call that I made and thought to say something positive about it.
As a former long time, underskilled rec league soccer coach I really miss your ref related posts. I always learned something or gained some insight into what might be appropriate for competitive levels. BTW, the same is true for you HI posts – I learn stuff.
As both a referee and parent of a 14 y.o. referee, I’d have to disagree with your answer to number 1. I think a kind-but-not-creepy “good job on that last call” would be appreciated. My kid liked it when parents praised his work AFTER a game, especially if he had taken flak for making a difficult call. In one 11U rec girls game, a girl had a shot glance off the side of her head but didn’t cry, go down, or indicate she was hurt for 20-30 seconds. In that time the other team scored, then she collapsed in a heap crying. Her coach came running on the field screaming at my kid that the goal should be disallowed because he should have stopped play the minute she was hit. My son stayed firm, saying there was no grounds for stopping play right at the moment, but he had to weather some yelling. After the game a couple of parents from that team approached him and told him they appreciated his officiating and apologized for the coach’s behavior. He came away feeling more confident in his judgment.
And I take any and every opportunity to explain offsides, mostly so I don’t have to listen to uninformed parents yell about it all the time. I do get frustrated that most rec games and the men’s league I play in don’t have ARs, so the center inevitably miscalls offsides often (both ways) and fans and players both howl with outrage.
@ribber: “Non-kicking team on goal kicks have to retreat to their half until the ball is in play…” That one seems a bit overcompensatory to me, but something’s necessary in this regard for younger teams. 9 year old goalies can’t handle the pressure of a full-court press on their attempts to just get the ball back in play after it’s gone over the end line. Oftentimes they’re not the players with the strong leg, so they can’t boot it 25 yards downfield over everyone’s heads to safety if it’s not a punt opportunity and they have to kick it from the ground. So several times a game you’d have a goalie free kick the ball 15 feet, straight to an oncoming player who just knocks it right into the net. I like the way my kid’s travel league did it, where the opposing team needs to stay out of the penalty area until a non-goalie touches the ball. The defenseman may still give it up, but at least he’s generally out on the flank a little bit and can kick it out of bounds if there’s too much pressure on him.
As the parent of a 14 year old soccer layer, that is wise advice
@Omnes Omnibus: All of our kids played soccer. One of them was on an elite team that almost always played up a year, because they had already beaten every team in their own age group in the entire northwest.
I have seen parents red carded. And also at HS basketball games, I have seen fouls called on teams with unruly parents. But!
One year we went to a soccer tournament way up in the north part of Washington state, I forget the name of the town. We got there by driving about 50 miles on Chuckanut Road. (That’s the sound your car makes as you drive along, and that’s what’s happening under your car.)
We saw behavior there that we had never dreamed of. As we were entering the field area, we stopped to read the rules board and were puzzled by one of the rules: “Parents must stay after the game for adjudication”. We soon found out! We had never seen parents behave that way. They yelled insults, they coached shamelessly from the side and they even ran out on the field! Our team and parents prided themselves on their manners. We did on a few occasions break out in a chorus of “Oh Sir! On Sir!! And of course we had seen other teams’ parents behave in a more rowdy way. But these people were beyond all our expectation. And they did stay after the game for adjudication, and said adjudication did affect the final score. Local rules.
It was the subject of most of our dinner time conversation.