By: Austin Gomez, NISOA National Assessor
For parents watching their children play soccer, the most important desire for their grade-school child is: to touch the ball a few times during the game. For their middle-school aged child it’s to run throughout the game. For their high-school aged child it’s to be more physical during the contest. For their college-aged child it’s to be more technically and tactically skilled. For their professional-aged player it’s to win every game.
In my opinion the bottom line is that always win mentality, from all levels, grade-school through the professional level. Hence, because of this inherent desire to be victorious in all their soccer contests that their child plays in, it is ultimately up to the Referee and the Referee Team that this “Most Beautiful Game” is always played in a safe environment! Thus, the true mission of the Referee and Referee Team is to protect players from one another!
So, the recipe ingredients for a “Safe and Effectively Officiated” game include: (1) effective communications skills via an assertive personality and presence, (2) confidence in consistent decisions, (3) courage via concentration and fortitude, (4) with a dash of common sense, giving the “aroma” of protection and vigilance to all participants (i.e., 22 players plus the Referee Team.)
Talking to players is vitally supreme with regard to the first and most important step of game control. Using eye-to-eye contact with an offending player along with a brief, polite, but firm monologue that the previous unacceptable conduct must be halted via “Words and Body Language”, and along with the meaningful, message-filled whistle (which is also an important ally for the Referee) going hand-in-hand with the Referee’s verbal and non-verbal communication.
The Referee’s actions must demonstrate the believability and sell-ability aspects to officiating, wherein players, coaches, spectators all fully realize that the Referee has strong faith in the decisions that will be further backed by Referee actions.
Issuing disciplinary cards, when deservedly earned, is another safety element. The yellow card will then be issued so that the player being cautioned understands his/her conduct is not appropriate and must cease and not continue. The Referee deals with the misconduct by: placing the player “on probation” throughout the rest of the game, and if not stopped the player is sent to “prison” via the red card signifying ejection/disqualification because of the player’s continued “criminal” actions or behavior. Some players do NOT deserve to play in a soccer game!
This “Most Beautiful Game” should be FUN, COMPETITIVE, ENJOYABLE, MYSTERIOUS, LEARNINGFUL, and DISCIPLINED. Therefore, to safeguard these six desired elements of each game, safety must always be the foremost mission in maintaining the integrity of the eighteen high school and seventeen college rules with regard to both their “letter” as well as “spirit.” If players do not feel safe, then the “beauty level” will not exist and eventually soccer will deteriorate into a crime-filled, combative rather thah competitive sport, and hence lose the “enjoy-ability” factor for all game participants.
Therefore the FOREMOST MISSION of a Referee and the Referee Team is to keep the game SAFE, ALWAYS!