Being a youth soccer referee is probably the worst job in the world – next to being President of the United States. The game official is absolutely necessary for the game, but if they do a great job, no one notices. However, one slip or missed call and they become the focal point of the entire match. According to the parents and coaches of the losing squad, it was one bad call by the referee that was the turning point to them losing the entire game.
What parents and coaches fail to understand is that the officials we have now are THE BEST available. Chasing one off means that there may not be anyone to replace them. If some poor soul DOES step forward, they’ll most likely be worse than the one you just got rid of (read that as: less experienced.
Referee abuse is an anomaly to normal society. If you saw a late 30’s to early 50’s adult standing on the sidewalk berating a teenager or young adult from a distance, you’d probably intercede or call the police, but at youth sporting events, it’s commonplace and ACCEPTED. Go to any sports complex and stop at any field for any sport and you’ll see parents standing or sitting on the sideline yelling at the referee and questioning every call they make – the entire game.
Why would anyone want to be a referee?
When they step onto the field, youth soccer referees know that every call they make will be scrutinized and every step they take on the field will be measured against biased parent and coach perception. No matter who the foul is called against, someone is going to be upset about it… and they’ll question and badger the ref until the final whistle blows. But for all that is negative about being a referee, for some reason, we still have people willing to do the job. The pay must be AWESOME!
Youth sports officials have every right to fear for their lives. Go on YouTube and you can find a dozen video clips of referees getting beaten. Just recently, a youth soccer linesman in the Netherlands was beaten and kicked to death by several teenage players (Read more: DailyMail). As any player’s behavior is usually a direct reflection of their parent’s behavior, and since children learn through the actions of their parents, you can bet that the four teenagers involved in this hideous crime have parents that are the loudest and most critical of referees.
Most youth soccer referees are really just kids themselves, carrying out adult responsibilities. This is a difficult situation for most teens and young adults, as older adults and parents have always been the authority figures in their lives. Now, they’re the authority figure. Any referee will tell you that their goal is to keep the rhythm of game flowing smoothly and that they have no bias one way or the other as to the outcome. Parents on the sidelines however, appear to believe otherwise.
In the United States, soccer referees don’t have the authority to show red cards and formally eject fans or parents, but they can stop the game and require that a parent leave the area before the game resumes. If a youth soccer referee ever feels that they are in eminent danger by both fans and coaches, they should immediately and quickly leave the field and find a field marshal, the club director or a local club coach from another game on an adjoining field.
The referee should NEVER engage a belligerent parent. Doing so is dangerous, as it may incite violence. When faced with a potentially volatile situation, a referee should:
Imagine your own work environment. What if your boss stood across the room and yelled “Come on!”, and “Are you kidding me!” How about, “Is this your first DAY!? What are you doing!?” Officiating sports is tough enough without someone standing over you and scrutinizing every step you take. So, instead of verbally abusing the referee at your next game, make a point to thank them BEFORE the game, as well as after for their service.
Without them, there are no “organized” sports.
From ESPN’s June 14 episode of Outside the Lines – Officials Attacked