Are We Helping On Gameday?

Three important game day questions and a reminder that refs are people too.

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Parent Corner here at Keystone FC.  I hope that everyone is enjoying the spring season so far!  It's always an exciting time of year for club soccer, with league play in full swing, tourneys, and hopefully some deep runs in the State Cup!  

We do need to discuss a growing issue in youth soccer, and that is the referee shortage.  Last week EDP sent out an email to all clubs addressing the referee shortage.  We are having problems across the nation finding people who are willing to referee youth soccer games. If you think about it, it isn't easy to ref a soccer game.  On top of that, it's a job you chose to do because you love the game, and still want to be around the game, while making some extra money in the process.  You know what you do not sign up for?  The verbal abuse, and pressure placed on you from outside the lines.  The biggest reason there is a referee shortage is how the refs are being treated in game.  This weekend I spoke with three different sets of referees.  I asked them how it is going, and how they feel the parents act around the game and all of them said it's been really rough with parents and it seems to be getting worse, not better.  They are reporting parents, coaches, and clubs weekly to their governing bodies, and this just shouldn't be.  As I sat and watched the games, I would have to agree with them...they aren't treated fairly.  Frankly, I felt for them in a few of the games I watched.  Will the referee get every call right?  No, they will miss some calls because they are human and make mistakes too.  But think about it this way, could you think clearly in a fast moving game, with all the screaming, stress, and verbal abuse being thrown at you? 

It takes a very special and unique person to handle all of that stress, emotion, and noise and still think clearly and make good decisions. 

While we can't control how others act around the field, here at Keystone FC we want to set a high standard when it comes to how we treat everyone including opposing teams, and fans, and the referees on game day.  While the treatment of other humans goes far beyond how we look as a club, it is important to remember that you as a parent at Keystone FC are a representative of our club.  So parents, here are a few questions to ask yourself on Game Day. 

Question 1 -  Am I helping?  So your son or daughter gets fouled in the game...which happens in a physical and aggressive sport like soccer.  Does screaming at the referee in that moment help anyone?  So many parents will say they don't yell at referees unless it's a player safety issue.  Ok, ask yourself this.  Is the game now safer because I yelled at this referee?  "Am I helping?" is a great question because a couple things happen when you start screaming at the referee.  

  • First, you are now a distraction.  You can be distracting the referee moving forward in the game, and your child.  The players now pick up on your emotions and now they are more focused on the referee or being wronged than playing soccer.  You may also distract your coach as they now have to worry about you rather than just coaching the game.  
  • Second you are now part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  I sat at a game this weekend where the parents were all over the referees, and I found it ironic that there were only 2 referees at the game, they were missing an AR, which only puts more stress on the center ref, and I thought...I don't blame the person that isn't here right now, I couldn't do this either!  

This is a really important question.  Am I helping?

Question 2 - Am I making this experience about me?  It is really important that we parents make sure we remember who this game is for.  We must let our children play the game.  We must let our coaches coach the game and we must let the referees ref the game.  I get it, we are excited, we make the investment of time, money, resources, and we are every bit as into the game as our children, but we need to keep reminding ourselves who this is about...and mom and dad if we are honest, it should be about them, and not us.  When we start screaming about calls we are inserting ourselves into the game we are supposed to be giving to the players, coaches, and referees. Think about this very intentionally on game day and as yourself this question.  Am I making this experience about me or is this for my child?

Question 3 - Could I handle being treated the way I'm treating the referee?  This is really important, believe it or not, referees are people too and their job is not an easy one, especially as the kids grow, and the game gets faster.  We parents only make it harder if we treat them poorly.  So, I have heard it, "Hey, they are paid to do this...it's their job."  Well, what would you do if you were treated poorly and verbally abused at your job?  Would you keep going back to it?  Do you see the issue?  We want to see our children playing the game but we need referees for this to happen, and we are seeing more and more people unwilling to stay in what would be considered a hostile work environment in many cases.  Ask yourself, Could I handle being treated this way?

The Challenge:  So starting this coming weekend, I challenge you to ask yourself these three really important questions.  And then take it a step further...Before or after the game, win or lose take a moment and thank the referees for coming out and officiating so our children can play this awesome game

Let's be part of the solution and the example to the rest of the soccer community on how to act on Game Day. 

Best of luck to you this Spring! 

Parental Game Day Check List:

  1.   Traveling to the game remind your child how much you love watching them play.
  2.   During the game ask yourself these three important questions.
  3.   Before or after the game make a point to thank the referees for their efforts. (Your coach too!)
  4.   Ride home tell your child you love watching them play.