By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician
During a recent informal interview with a coach from a major Division I men’s program, I received incite on what is the critical elements a coach is looking for from intercollegiate soccer officials. This article will summarize the comments from the coach.
The number one item the coach is seeking from all officials is consistency. Officials are expected to make the same type of calls for both teams no matter where the situation occurs on the field of play. Linked to consistency is the need to have the game officiated as an intercollegiate game with student athletes. Some officials approach the game as a professional assignment and allow too many situations to occur without dealing with the player(s) involved. For example, in a conference game between two rivalries only three fouls were called against one team and four against the other. This game was very physical and could have had several players injured. In a similar game, twenty fouls were called against one team and twenty-five against the other. Officials should be more consistent in foul recognition and ensure that player safety is paramount.
Accuracy of decisions with regard to the NCAA Rules Book is very important. Officials that make decisions based on US Soccer Laws create problems for the coaches and teams. An improper restart or other misapplication of the NCAA rules could result in a protest. Officials must know the NCAA Rules Book and how to apply it. The second aspect of accuracy is recognizing what is a foul and how it should be dealt with throughout the game. If a trip occurs in the penalty area, the official must have the courage to award a penalty kick.
Officials must be physically fit to properly manage the game. Officials do not have to run all over the field to demonstrate how fit they are. The officiating team needs sufficient fitness to be in the right place at the right time. Officials who can anticipate the play and be in proper position is more likely to maintain game control than officials who run all over the field and not be in the best position to make a hard decision. Also, some officials who try to demonstrate how fit they are tend to be too close to play and not see the entire field of play or end up being in the way of a play that is developing.
Today’s athletes expect the officials to have the ability to communicate with players in a manner that garners respect but allows the players the opportunity to talk with the officials about decisions or other game related matters. Officials that are not able to communicate can lose players’ respect and it will be harder to maintain game control. Officials that understand the game and can speak to players to assist with game control and game management tend to earn players’ respect more quickly. Officials that have the ability to communicate to players in a manner that does not appear to be a lecture but more of a dialog are more than likely to have the players respond in a positive manner.
Coaches at the intercollegiate level are more comfortable with officials that are approachable. Coaches will respect officials that will respond to coaches when they question a situation or are not sure of why a particular decision was made. Officials that will not respond to coaches or overreact to coaches questioning decisions usually create additional problems since the players and coaches involved have a negative reaction to the situation(s). Coaches do not have the right to continually question officials or publically condemn their skills. Some coaches use this method as a form of gamesmanship in hopes of gaining a call in their favor later in the game. However, when coaches have a legitimate question the officials should be able to respond in a professional manner and let the coaches know the rationale for the decision(s).
Coaches are seeking officials that are professional in every aspect of the intercollegiate game. The above items that coaches are looking for represent key components of what will make officials successful when they officiate every game.