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 this series 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 violence in the game.
Based on the number of misconduct reports, viewing games on TV, reviewing tapes of games and personal observation, there is no doubt that violence in the game is increased over the past few years. There are several possible reasons for this and the focus of this article will be to review some possibilities for the change in behavior by players.
Conference play at both the interscholastic and intercollegiate level is becoming more and more competitive. Conference standings have a direct impact on post season and playoff selections and seeding in these tournaments. This means that regular season conference play becomes more competitive. In addition, the team that wins the conference has “bragging rites” through the remainder of the year and into the following season.
The next possibility for an increase in violence is the “need to win” syndrome. Players and coaches have increased competitive natures and strive to win at all costs. This starts at a young age when there are championship games for 6 and 7 year old teams. As players develop and grow older the need to win becomes even more important. Win and all costs becomes the norm. Coaches are hired to develop winning teams. In fact, the coach’s job may depend on the overall win vs. loss record.
Players are training more and playing almost year round. In addition, players in the age bracket of 15 – 22 are not as emotionally mature and react differently to physical play. This age group also can get frustrated easier when more skilled players continue to make plays that demonstrate better abilities. These scenarios could lead to a player of less skill committing a violent act or commit an unnecessary hard foul.
With the many sports stations on television, competitive soccer games can be viewed almost 24 hours a day. High school and college players watch these games and observe how professional players foul, retaliate, and the players’ overall behavior. The high school and college players observe this and carry the same into their games. This type of behavior is not acceptable and opponents may react by retaliating with a violent act.
Each interscholastic and intercollegiate soccer referee must be ready to deal with violence and do what is necessary to prevent it from happening. It is imperative that the game be controlled and appropriate people management skills be used to keep players in control of their emotions.
Foul recognition is one way of preventing violence. Referees cannot ignore fouls at any level and, when necessary, deal appropriately with misconduct. In addition, the referee must know how to invoke advantage when appropriate without losing game control. When too much advantage is awarded and fouls are ignored, players will start to take matters into their own hands. Either the player that was fouled or a teammate will retaliate and the violence will escalate.
A high school or college referee who can utilize people management skills to his/her advantage will be more likely to control the game and prevent violent situations. Depending on the officials personality, various approaches can be taken to control player behavior. Officials who have the ability to talk to players and gain respect frequently throughout the game can prevent retaliation and violence in general. The “quiet word”, verbal warning, and even a stronger discussion are tools that every official should use.
Referees cannot become too authoritative. Players will not react well to the referee who raises his/her voice and talks down to them. Also, a referee who constantly issues cautions or ejections for every situation will not earn the respect of players. Referees should work on skills to defuse situations without the issuance of a card. The caution and ejection should be only used when necessary to improve game control.
Conversely, referees cannot be timid. The referee must be strong enough to deal with players and their behaviors. Players will quickly recognize a referee who appears timid and the players will take advantage by committing hard fouls, retaliating, and committing misconducts. The referee must be sufficiently strong to deal with players and gain the respect deserved early in the game.
Preventative officiating will go a long way to reduce the potential of violence. Setting the tone of the game early on will greatly assist the referee in game control. For example, the first foul where the opponents set a wall is a good time for the referee to remind all players that encroachment will not be condoned. Moving the wall the required distance quickly and professionally should prevent problems later in the game. Another example is dealing with any fouls early in the game that could lead to a player being injured. Reckless slide tackles, shirt grabbing, challenging the goalkeeper who is possession of the ball should be dealt with the first time they occur. Again this should set the tone and reduce the potential of retaliations and violence.
in summary, interscholastic and intercollegiate soccer officials must use the skills they have to manage the players so that the game is played fairly and without any violence occurring.