Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keep It Positive

With few exceptions, I've never been one to scream at or bait soccer referees. Heck, I was 30 before I got my first red card (defending myself against an opponent actively trying to bash in my skull) and have only had one since (for actively trying to bash in an opponent's skull). I naturally assume all referees are inept and/or crooked.

The exceptions are pretty funny, though, in retrospect. I once got a yellow card as a high school coach for "inciting the sideline," which I did by not uttering a single word, but, rather, kicking at the ground and spinning away from the field after the seventh or eighth strait call that went against my boys. The ref actually stopped play to book me, then gave the opposition--our cross-town rival--a free kick in a dangerous position from which they scored the only goal in a 1-0 loss.

The other that comes to mind is the time a ref disallowed a goal I'd scored (when we were tied and down to 10-men in a Cup Final) for "charging," a curious call since I won the ball in the air and touched nobody, a fact which caused me, for the remainder of the game, to alert the ref that I was going to win the header ("EVERY TIME!") off every goal kick or corner kick, which I did. He eventually tired of my antics and, I swear to you, offered me the choice between a yellow or red card. I chose yellow and we ended up winning anyway.

Yes, it's not as if I'm immune to emotion getting the better of me. However, I have no issue keeping my fire under control while coaching AJ's team. His U-8 team.

Kudos to me for my restraint.

Of course, when referees, even the U-8 style, seem to want to pick a fight with me, well....

I didn't have any ref issues last year. Not even close. I made it four games this year before my first run-in. In a tie game, the other team scored a goal by kicking the ball out of my goalie's hands. I protested, instinctively, saying as such. The ref turned to me and said, "He did not have clear control of the ball!"

What I should have said was, "That's not the rule." Because it isn't. If he has a finger on the ball, it can't be kicked out of his hand and the reason for this is so goalies, such as they are at this age, don't get repeatedly kicked in the head. That's what I should have said. What I did say was, "Of course he didn't have clear control! He's 6!"

Okay, my bad. After the game, I sought out the ref, apologized for my outburst, but then made my point about the safety of the children, to which he heartily agreed and actually said he appreciated me mentioning that because he hadn't thought of it.

Play on.

Perhaps that scene was reported elsewhere, because that can be the only explanation for what happened two weeks later.

This ref was strident from the start. Before he checked the kids' cleats, he gave them stern treatment, using phrases like "I will not tolerate..." and "When I blow the whistle....STOP...IMMEDIATELY." I was partially amused. Chillax, Brah.

The first issue arose when one of my players got hurt in the first quarter. As I helped him off the field, I motioned for a replacement when I was informed by the ref that I couldn't sub "until the end of the quarter."

"That's ridiculous. Yes I can."

"No," he said. "Those are the rules."

(Those are not the rules.)

Being the responsible adult/coach I am, I didn't press it and we played short for a couple minutes while my player recovered.

Then it got stupid.

AJ, as he is prone to do from time to time, wandered about the pitch aimlessly. I yelled to get his head back into the proceedings. What I said was, "AJ! You have to play defense!"

The referee blew his whistle and stopped play. Turning to my sideline, he bellowed, "Coach! Keep it positive!"

I was stunned into open-mouthed silence (Emet, bless her heart, was not, and threw out a sarcastic, "Really?" for which she earned a Death Stare). For one, what I said was hardly negative. For two, I don't think you could find a parent on my sideline who would accuse me of being negative. For three, the referee's place is not to interject himself into coach-player relations (outside of physical mis-treatment, I'll allow).

Still, I managed to swallow the four or five smart-ass remarks that rushed to my brain and returned to the matter at hand.

Then it got stupider.

I had turned my back to the play. It was an opponent's goal kick and I headed up field in anticipation of the re-start. Then I heard one of my parents yell, "Hey! He can't do that!" (What the opposing goalie, a child nearly twice the size of your average 7-year-old, had done was not to kick the goal kick, but to throw it, nearly 3/4 of the field.) As I was turning back to see what had happened, the ref blew his whistle with all his lung power and sprinted over to me, while also reaching in his breast pocket, a sure sign he was going for a card.

Again, I was incredulous.

"Coach! Control your sideline!" he said and the poor parent, as nice a guy as you can imagine is stammering apologies behind me, but also filling me in on the play that I'd missed. I related the issue to the ref, who is now firmly ensconced in my face, my arms spread out wide and my voice diplomatic.

"Do you want me to throw you out?" he said and, honestly, I couldn't hardly take it any more, so I asked if what the opposing player did was legal and since it's not, he might be able to understand why the parent was momentarily, but not harshly, chagrined and holycrap sir, you do realize this is an under-8 game and you are acting in a manner not in proportion with the activity at hand.

I avoided being thrown out AND being shown a card, though he made sure to remind me he was boss, was, in fact, one bad motherfucker in his yellow shirt.

That was really it for confrontation, though my blood, and the collective supply of my sideline, continued to boil. One last thing though, one of my players was hurt in the 4th quarter and as I walked him to the sideline, the ref told me I could bring in a sub for him.

I don't know if this was a conciliatory gesture, or if the opposing coach had informed him at half time that he had erred earlier, or if it was a pity move, since we were down three goals at that point.

Whatever. I sent in a sub.

I've played soccer for 35 years and have never reffed a game. Wouldn't wanna do it. Respect the people who take their time (incompetent and/or crooked though they may be) to do a thankless gig. Game ended. I always go out of my way to thank the refs. And I was going to do so again. Except he scurried away.

I'd like to think this was because he realized he was inappropriate. More likely, he had to hustle to his next assignment. He had another game to ruin.


At 4:19 PM, Blogger The Bracelet said...

Nothing pisses me off faster than a ref who fails to make an obvious call, which inevitably results in a crazy odd man rush two seconds later for a goal.

I've found most refs who suck to be consistent in their suckitude and I've had to take many a situation into my own hands.

I remember one kid in high school who was constantly getting overly elbowey and shovey. I asked the ref to watch for it and it continued to happen without call. So I found an opportunity to angle my boot on a hard and fast tackle so the aluminum tipped cleats would fuck up this dude's ankle.

It's funny. He never shoved or elbowed me again for the whole game. Probably because he was on the sideline icing his ankle.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Drizztdj said...

At least you didn't throw the trash can, all the back up sticks, water bottles, and a left winger on to the ice after the obvious blown call.

I might know someone who did.


But but but he was WRONG!

Maybe I'll give you the story sitting at a Pai Gow table next month :)

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Sean D said...

From a former Ref, I loved U8 games. It's bad reffing that causes bad players to get away with stuff. (See New Mexico Women's team for further examples).

There are always going to be bad refs, but I'm not surprised he scurried off.


At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been saying it since time immemorial, this slippery slope of political correctness was going to wind up ruining this country, and in less than a week, I have two examples:

1) Shot in the back at Fort Hood
2) Sweet Ned is told by ref to "Keep it positive."

I'm honestly not sure which is worse.

I'm sincerely hoping for American Revolution II, because I know which side is going to win (the side I'll be on)


The Liberty Czar


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