Match Hazards (11-20)

By Bruce Brownlee

In "Match Hazards 1-10" we learned how to deal with weather, field conditions and other impediments. Now, get tips on coping with referees, parents and several other roadblocks you may encounter as a coach.

11. No Warm-Up Space
Move two automobiles and warm up with aerobics, isometrics, jogging in place, jumping, stretching, and partner serve ball touches in the space left behind. Touches can be volley back to chest with inside, outside, and instep of foot, thigh pops, chest and foot, headers, and so on. Send your team manager to get an exact time remaining figure from the linesman. Complete your parking space warm-up and move your team and equipment into position behind one of the teams playing the preceding game. Be ready to begin your first on-field exercise at the final whistle.

12. Excessive Referee Procedure
There is nothing in the laws of the game that says the referee is required to make a long speech to your team before the game, nor is the referee instructed to belittle women players condescendingly by calling them "ladies" and making jokes about their jewelry or boyfriends, or to otherwise waste your warm-up time with jokes and trivia with your team. This often does happen and you can stop it by challenging the referee to complete the equipment inspection and check the player passes. "Please ref, we need to complete our warm-up" is all you should have to say. Referees usually don't argue, and most of them know that they should be expediting the match, not appearing as the star entertainer.

13. Color Conflicts
Players should pack an alternate top, shorts, and socks. Select your uniform parts for maximum contrast. Don't worry about style. Zip lock freezer bags are popular for packing uniforms, as they keep everything dry and clean until use.

14. Holes Or Sprinkler Heads
Check the field before you start warm-ups. Bring it to the attention of the referee as soon as the referee arrives. If there's not fill dirt available to safely fill and cover these dangerous ankle breakers, don't play the match. Your medical kit should have a plastic spade for this purpose. (REI and other outfitters sell these as "sanitary shovels".) As your team gets older and you move toward state cup play and important tournaments, there is no way that you can afford to have a player out 4 to 6 weeks with a serious ligament tear.

15. Unsafe Goals Or Torn Nets
Check the field before you start warm-ups. Bring unsafe goals or torn nets to the attention of the referee. If the either goal appears to be structurally unsafe or in danger of tipping and there is no solution, don't play the match.

16. Lightning
Leave the field immediately. Put the kids into automobiles or a building. Lightning can occur at the front edge of a storm from a clear blue sky, and it can also occur in the middle or end of an otherwise light rain shower. Lightning can strike 8 or 10 miles from the heart of the storm. Because of this, there is no scientific way to decide if or when to resume. At WAGS years ago, a heuristic rule was used. Visible lightning stopped play for 15 minutes. Every subsequent lightning strike reset the clock to 0. There is no league or tournament match so important it can't be abandoned. Ignore the wrath of the parents, the referee, the field marshal, and your players. Your obligation as a coach is not to any of these people. Your obligation is to the young people your players will become later in life.

17. Bad Referee
Until many of our experienced youth players can get off to college, graduate, get jobs, and return home to referee, there will be a shortage of excellent referees who can read the game as well as you might like, so you will get bad refereeing at times. (Referees are thinking that there won't be enough good coaches until some experienced youth players get back from college, and they are not wrong.) Meanwhile, you should not destroy or distract your team by losing your cool, it won't help. If the referee misinterprets a law of the game, does not keep up with play, or allows serious foul play, you can point this out at the time, contact the tournament committee, or write a short letter to the state youth referee administrator. If it's a league match at your field or an in-house club match, contact your club president, coaching director, and referee booker. Explain your complaint clearly, but don't beat them to death over it or they'll doubt your objectivity. If the referee says "red" when it should be "blue", you are out of luck.

18. Hostile Opposing Parents
Go through the referee, field marshal or the opposing coach and ask for help if there is abuse or profanity. Teach your players that hostile parents are just one of many distractions to be tuned out. Ensure that your team's parents understand that you would like them not to respond to the hostile opposing parents in any way, or to address any players on the field.

19. Your Abusive Team Parents
Let your assistant run the team. Walk around the field and speak privately with the offending parents, one at a time. Ask them to help you out by not talking to the players. Parents should say "nice shot", "great pass", and "well done", and that's about it. Well-meaning parents can undermine your teaching, and abusive parents can permanently wreck their own kid's psychology to the point their own player has less confidence and mental toughness than Barney Fife. This is ironic, because the same abusive parents would go to court to stop a teacher from abusing their player in the same way.

20. Bad Directions
Players getting lost on the way to fields contributes to poor warm-ups and bad match results. When playing away in league play, get directions from the opposing coach, check them with another coach in your club or with maps from your state office, and drive to the field on your own before your last practice before the match. Make sure that each of your players has a map, and take a copy of the map to your office to FAX to the dad of the player who did not attend your last practice. On the night before the game, update your hot line message to include the uniform of the day and directions to the field.

Bruce Brownlee coached boys soccer from 1978 to 1988 in Marietta, Georgia.  Coached girls teams from 1988 to 2003 for Tophat Soccer Club in Atlanta and AFC Lightning Soccer Club in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Served as a staff ODP recruiter and coach in 2002-2003.  Returned in 2010-2011 to help coach his granddaughter’s U11 team.  Won 4 state cup championships at Tophat.  Proud of his four children who played top-level club soccer and amateur and college soccer later. His site Soccer Coaching is a terrific resource for club and amateur soccer coaches.

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