Correct Terminology

Published on January 30, 2017


By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer referee. However, any soccer referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on the importance of using correct terminology.

Both the NCAA and NFHS Rules Books provide specific terminology for the names of various parts of the field of play and other aspects of the rules books. Officials are professional and it is important for themto use the correct terminology when describing a situation or the field in general. Many individuals, including sport casters at games use the wrong terms on a regular basis. This does not mean that officials should fall into the same habits.

There are several terms within the description of a field of play that are often times improperly described.   The line drawn across the center of the field that divides the field in half is the halfway line. It is not the “50” or midfield. On an intercollegiate field, it would be impossible to be the “50” since the field must be between 115-120 yards long. In high school the field can be from 100- 120.

The second field marking that is often improperly named is the goal line. This is the shorter line where the goal is located. It is not the end line. Similarly, the longer lines that outline the field are the touch lines not the side lines. It is easy to remember these terms if one realizes the goal is on one line and players can touch the ball with their hands if it crosses the touch line.

The marking that extends 18 yards out on to the field and 18 yards from each goal post and is connected by a line parallel to the goal line is the penalty area. It is not the penalty box. A penalty box is found in a hockey rink or indoor soccer facility. It is not on a soccer field. The other area that is often called improperly is the goal area. It is not the 6 yard box.

The title of Rule 11 is often stated improperly. The rule is offside not offsides. There is no “s” found anywhere in the rule. If an attacking player is penalized for a violation of this rule, he/she is declared offside – not offsides.

If a game is tied at the end of regulation, the intercollegiate game requires two sudden-victory overtime periods. For interscholastic games the tie game situation is determined by the state association. If the association determines it is two sudden-victory overtime periods, that is the term the officials should utilize. These periods should not be called sudden-death periods.

For post-season games, if the game is tied at the end of the sudden-victory overtime periods a winner must be determined. The procedure for this to occur is kicks from the penalty mark. These kicks are not penalty kicks. A penalty kick requires a foul to be committed by a defensive player in his/her own penalty area and the foul would result in a direct free kick. Taking of kicks to determine a winner has no foul involved and should not be called penalty kicks.

One other area that commonly causes the use of improper terminology is misconduct situations. If a player commits a certain type of foul he/she is cautioned. The display of a yellow card indicates the caution. The player is not yellow carded. The same applies for a player committing a more serious foul and is ejected. He/she is not red carded. The red card is displayed so everyone knows that the player is ejected.

The final area where correct terminology is critical is game reports. When a referee submits a game report it must accurately describe the situation with the correct terminology. Using an improper or inaccurate term could have a direct impact on the ruling that is made based on the game report. For example, was the ejection for striking or fighting? Fighting carries a more severe penalty and the referee must be accurate in describing the incident so that when the report is reviewed the situation is clearly understood.

In closing, using correct terminology demonstrates that the official is professional. Also, it serves as an opportunity to remind and/or teach others what the correct terms that are in the rules book and should be used.

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