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Josh Beaumont's picture

Lessons Learned From Being The Man In the Middle

I recently refereed a freshman soccer game between two local schools. It ended with a 1-1 tie, a fair result given the match. What transpired after initially left me speechless. A mother that was sitting on the other side of the field took it upon herself to approach me after the game and ask me why I was so biased for the other team. Little did she know that I grew up 3000 miles away and never heard of the opposing school until that day. She wanted to know why I let the other team push and shove her son’s team. When I referee I try and let the games flow as much as possible and not call every single touch foul since I know it can ruin the flow of the game.This caught me off guard as it was not a physical match at all and ironically her son’s team was by far the more physically aggressive. 

She inquired as to what my name was, then she threatened to have me banned from refereeing anymore of their games. I had not realized that parents yielded so much power although I would have welcomed a sit down with the Athletic Director, her, and myself to compare soccer bios. 

I managed to bite my tongue, smile, and say thank you for her opinions and turned away. A big part of me feels as though I should have addressed the most bothersome part of this interaction, which in my opinion was the message given to her son that this is an appropriate way to act after a game. She had no right or need to approach me. She wasn't doing a service to her son because once he leaves the nest, he will be ill-equipped to handle challenging situations, not to mention the embarrassment that he must have felt having his mommy stand up for him.

I can not tell you how many colleagues of mine have left the club coaching scene because of interactions such as this. One local club has resorted to a one-strike rule for the parents. If a parent crosses the line, whether it is with a coach, another parent, a player, or a referee, then the child is no longer allowed to be a member of the club. Can you imagine being a parent and having to tell your child that they can not play because of your actions? I have heard that after an initial 6 month period, the club no longer has issues with parents interfering.  If that high school had such a rule, would that parent have even thought of coming up to me?

As a parent myself, I understand our nature is to protect our kids, but there is a limit. Parents, next time you feel the need to approach a referee after a game please remember that you probably are not going to be setting a positive example for your child. Referees do not have a bias towards one team or the other, they don’t care who wins, they works for peanuts, and usually just do it for the love of the game. If there are concerns, I would suggest you allow the coaches to ask for explanations from the referee or to provide proper feedback.

If your child is losing the physical battles of the game, he or she would be better served in a proper strengthening program such as the ones provided by 90Strong.com as opposed to chiding the referee.

Soccer is game of life learning. Whether it be the coaches, the referees, or other members of the team, allow your kids to wage their own battles.

If they do not feel as though they are getting enough playing time, let them approach the coach to inquire why and what part of the game they need to work on. If they did not win, do not put blame on the referee but have them look intrinsically and ask ,"what more could I have done today to help my team win?".   

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