How Ya Goin Ta Act?


By: Bob Jones, NISOA National Clinician, Maryland

This month across the nation ten’s of thousands of student athletes await with anticipation the start of interscholastic tryouts and practice. They know that they are good. During the so called “off season” they have attended numerous “specialty camps” played in countless games of ever increasing levels of competition. And, now the interscholastic coaches are beckoning them on to the field to demonstrate their soccer expertise. Visions of future glory resonates in their minds as they envision the praise of their classmates who are cheering anticipated championship trophies, letter jackets and scholarships all lying at the end of a grueling schedule. Regardless of the academic pressures they move forward with zeal for they know that they are good.

The coach and his assistants stand with clip board and whistle in hand visually assessing the eager faces before them. The coach knows he is good. He no longer is a “volunteer” coach who accepted a challenge out of love of the game but now is a “educator – coach” trained specifically to assist the student athlete to learn life’s lessons while competing in their chosen sport. The coach has sat in many a seminar, studied training techniques, tactics and strategies. He is now a professional under contract to the school with all of the pressures that are associated in obtaining a winning season. His expectations are high as he begins his selection process and teaching his prospective athletes harsh lessons related to the red pen.

Into the mix we find the “spectator”, the proud mom and pop who has watched their player excel. They are on the sideline at practice and in the stands watching every scrimmage or game cheering their student athlete, regardless of abilities, to greater heights. Toss in the alumni and the student body who all know that their team is by far the best. They have paid to attend the event and take great pleasure in attempting to influence the official’s judgment but rarely protesting inadequate play. Their team is good and should be treated with the respect their talent demands. Lurking in the shadow is the media always willing to comment on the level of officiating and its influence on outcome.

Enter the Referee Team, who represent the alligator in the pond and who cares less which team wins or loses.  They, as consummate professionals, recognize that the playing arena is an extension of the classroom where a player may play without intimidation. They are there to ensure the game is played fairly, safely, and in an enjoyable manner. They are there to serve the players and the game. With this responsibility comes the realization that conflict is inevitable!

The players will blame the Referee Team for their inabilities or poor play. They will question consistency and equitable application of the rules of the game. The coach in the mean time will seek a presumed edge by using the Referee Team for motivational purposes. Throughout the spectator will howl, whine, and plea at every decision.

The key for the officials becomes not providing opportunity. This means doing your homework. It is critical to know what you are getting into, the particulars of the game and communicating effectively with your officiating team pre-game, at the game, and post game. Most situations are manageable if you are paying attention. Swift action to defuse a situation requires you to have a keen sense of awareness as the game progresses. Your very presence and tone of voice become powerful conflict management tools as you apply a scale of justice ranging from the quiet word to a formal caution or ejection. Non-verbal messages are 16 times more powerful than verbal ones.

You are under constant pressure to be on top of your game. You must bring consistency and uniformity in both the interpretation and application of the rules. By doing so, the game will be safer and more enjoyable for all. Be pro- active not reactive to situations. By anticipating what may occur next you will prevent conflict and be marked as an advanced, experienced official.

Remember you are the sole objective person responsible to adjudicate the game. Your every action is being observed!