Toward a Resolution


When asked about his feelings of the relationship between referees and coaches, Dr. Jay Martin, editor of the NSCAA's Soccer Journal, wrote, "It seems to be getting worse. After observing the relationship between coaches and officials for over 30 years, it has become antagonistic and even counter-productive. There is a tension that is apparent even before the game begins between coaches and officials. This relationship is a problem. Assuming all of us associated with soccer want the game to improve and "catch-on" in America, then working together for the common good is imperative."

Dr. Martin then asked, "How do we do that?"

His immediate response was the dissemination of the "Coach's Starting Eleven" document developed by Paul McGinlay, men's soccer coach at Trinity (Texas) University. Here is Coach McGinlay's work:

A Coach's Perspective of What Referees Should Understand About Coaches

  1. Arrive at the game site early and physically prepare for your responsibility.
  2. Show obvious signs to everyone that the officiating crew is acting together as a team.
  3. Work hard to stay as close to the play as possible – it is hard to argue a call if the official is in position!
  4. Help keep the game flowing.
  5. Understand the difference between the "letter of the law" and the "spirit of the law," and always officiate with the spirit of the law in mind.
  6. On the occasion of a potentially cautionable offense, speak in a non-demanding and non-threatening tone first and caution as a last resort.
  7. Respect everyone involved and do your part to keep all participants in the game.
  8. Give clear and prompt signals. In the event that a mistake is made, it is okay to reverse the decision. Players and coaches know that you are human.
  9. Keep the game safe and fair for both teams.
  10. Show obvious signs that you are enjoying the game and your role in the game.
  11. Understand that we should all do our part to leave the game a little better than when we found it.

Dr. Martin points out, "All good stuff, and is it interesting to note that the focus is on the "professionalism" not on the "calls." Dr. Martin then asked Dr Jim Ruether, a long-time official in Ohio and a NISOA National Assessor and Clinician, to work on a "Referee's Starting Eleven" document. Here is Dr. Jim Ruether's work:

A Referee's Perspective of What Coaches Should Understand About Referees

  1. Officials feel the match should be decided by the teams playing soccer in a fair, safe and exciting manner, with as little need for official intervention as possible.
  2. The official's job is to be firm but fair, and keep "cheating" by the teams equal, which is difficult.
  3. Officials do not care who wins the game. There is no reason to favor one side over another.
  4. Officials will allow the game to flow by giving advantage only when player safety and game control are not compromised.
  5. Officials understand that fouls are not always equal. Some teams foul persistently to offset superior opponent skills or lack of discipline.
  6. Officials understand that players (and coaches) may dissent as much when a call is correct as when it is incorrect, and will be tolerant if the game continues in a positive manner.
  7. Officials do not give cards to players; players earn cards for reckless or careless play that has no other purpose than to disrupt play or injure an opponent.
  8. Officials have a difficult decision in when to give the first card. Not all fouls against your team merit cards; not all of your teams' fouls are immune from cards.
  9. Officials understand that coaches have legitimate arguments. But when picking battles, coaches should not dissent trifling calls. Who cares about a throw-in at midfield with the score 4-0?
  10. Officials have bad days. Objective and respectful feedback, or even silence, is a better way to help the official refocus and improve.
  11. Officials appreciate it if, when they do a good job and give an effort, coaches remember their name and understand that the "third team" on the field has also had a good game.

"So, there it is," writes Dr. Martin. "Both ‘sides have spoken."

When Dr. Martin was asked, "Will this help?" he replied, "It is a beginning! Everyone must understand that it is extremely important for officials and coaches/players not only coexist, but work together to improve the game and make it enjoyable for all players, coaches, fans and, yes, even officials."

Dr. Martin finished by writing, "Let's work together. We should understand that we all have a responsibility to leave the game a little better than when we found it."

Note: The CYSA Coaching School curriculum has been modified to address this subject. We look forward to your input when you attend a CYSA coaching course! Find the CYSA Coaching School Schedule on our web site, www.cysanorth.org.