Big mouth (assistant) coach


Last weekend, I refereed a rec league tournament. It’s a small league, and it doesn’t pay very well, but I did it for the experience. And boy, I got some experience!

For those of you new to soccer, there is usually a center referee (just called the referee) and two people on the sidelines (called assistant referees, or ARs — some people still call them “linesmen.”)

I was doing a U8 game (under 8 years old), which only uses one center ref and is on a much smaller field than most. The first game I had on Saturday went fine. Not much lip from the sidelines, although some parents didn’t like the way I called out of bounds. Well, it’s hard to see which team kicked it out when there’s no AR to help, so I’m sure I wasn’t always perfect. But the direction of a throw-in is rarely a game-changing situation.

I didn’t have any more games until Sunday because I had a family event to attend. But Sunday afternoon, I had another U8 game that didn’t go quite as well.

Let me start by saying, kids who play soccer at this age are adorable! I’m not a big fan of kids, but when they play and run so hard, you just want to pinch their wittle cheeks! The coaches, on the other hand, are quite a different story!

I started out the game the way I usually do. I checked the nets to make sure they were anchored well (a falling goal can and often does result in the death of a player),  I got my equipment ready and I checked in the teams.

Red was fired up and ready to play. They had one girl, who was so cute, and all the rest boys. I love seeing girls play with all boys. That’s the way I played as a child, and seeing a girl holding her own against boys is fantastic!

I checked their equipment (boys always laugh when I ask if they’re wearing any jewelry) and said we’re going to have a great game, right? “Right!” We’re ready to play, right? “Yes!” A good clean game where nobody gets hurt, right? “Right!”

Blue was slightly less enthusiastic: “We always lose,” one boy lamented. I said, Well, you’re here to have fun. You’re here to learn, and the more you play, the better you’ll get, right? “OK,” they said with their heads down.

Coaches seemed pretty laid back and cool. Blue coach seemed like all he wanted was for the kids to have fun. My kind of coach! Too bad he had a punk assistant.

The game started and soon red scored a goal. It was a controversial one because the ball bounced off the pole and slowly rolled into the goal. If it crosses the line completely, it’s a goal, and I called it as such. Blue’s assistant coach went nuts. “It’s not a goal! It’s not a goal!” I did what I usually do, which was to ignore him.

As the game played on, I could still hear him running his mouth! “She wasn’t even close enough to see if that was a goal!” (Um, excuse me? I was 10 feet from it, how close were you?) But I ignored him and let the kids play.

A few minutes later, a kid fell down. I didn’t see a foul, but the kid was on the ground crying. I learned quickly that in U8s, every time a kid falls, he starts crying and you have to stop the game. It’s rarely a serious injury, but you have to get the coach to tend to the little sweetie and perhaps sub in another player.

So, I called for a dropped ball, which is what you do when the game is interrupted but there’s no foul. Well, blue assistant started arguing about where the dropped ball should be. “Shouldn’t the dropped ball be where the foul occurred?” (Um, no jackass, you don’t do a dropped ball on a foul.) I ignored him and continued play. When I came back down to his side of the field, he was still bitching away — about a dropped ball! As I ran past him, I said, “Are you going to argue with every call I make? Because I will stop this game.” This shut him up for a few minutes.

At this point, I was kind of nervous and excited. This was the first time I ever had to get nasty with a coach — or anyone for that matter — as the center referee.

The next controversial call was when the ball went out of bounds on the goal line. Both kids kicked it at about the same time, but I couldn’t tell who last touched it (again, no ARs). So, I did what you’re supposed to do, and I called it for the defense. “Goal kick.” I said, and made my signal.

A parent, standing right at the corner area  and probably in a better position to see what happended, started screaming for a corner kick. “It’s a corner kick!” he said. “It’s a goal kick,” I said. I wasn’t about to change my mind for a freaking parent. “Isn’t it a corner kick because the ball went out of bounds on the defense?” he asked. “It’s a goal kick because I said it’s a goal kick!” No more trouble out of the parents.

Later in the first half, Big Mouth Assistant started up again. Three kids all ran for the ball, all three of them crashed into each other and tripped over the ball. All three went down, and one started crying. I blew the whistle and called for the coach.

Meanwhile, BMA started grumbling that I should have called a foul. On whom, I’m not sure, but I imagine he expected me to call it on a team other than his.

I walked about halfway across the field and I said calmly and directly at him, “They all tripped over the ball. There was no foul.” He just stood and glared at me, so I glared back. This lasted about five seconds, then I yelled loudly, “Knock it off!” The whole field went silent. Parents, kids and coaches were all looking at me. I walked over, got the ball and started the dropped ball. (Hells yeah, I’m such a badass.)

At halftime, the tournament director came over to see how it was going. I told him I’m this close to throwing out a coach. We talked and laughed for a little while, and the second half started without incident. BMA never gave me any more lip.

Red won 6-2.

After the game, I had to be whisked off to another game, but as I gave the game ball back to the home team, I stopped the red goalie and said, “Hey, you had some great saves out there!” He smiled bashfully and said “Thanks!” This kid was making saves far above his age level. I hope he’ll go on to play in more competitive leagues.

The head coach of red stopped me, shook my hand and said, “Good job.” I didn’t stick around for blue’s critique!

The next game was a U10 championship game, and I was the AR (I requested to be on the parents’ side of the field this time). It was a good, quiet game, and there were no more incidents.

Even with an obnoxious coach, I still had  a blast. And I’m pretty sure the blue head coach either told BMA to shut up (they’re U8s, for God’s sake) or he secretly wanted me to throw out the assistant.

My assignor friend and certification instructor told me I should have thrown the guy out. He said to never put up with crap from an assistant coach. But I felt that since I got the situation under control, it was best to just continue the game.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by ATL on June 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Wow. You know, your ref stories are way more interesting than actually watching the game. 😀 This is fascinating stuff and I’m looking forward to more!


  2. Posted by A-Dawg on June 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    You so rock! Hilarious, SD. Just hilarious — because I said so. 🙂


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