Keep Calm

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Keep Calm

Chris Dymski at MindTheCrease.com wrote a good article entitled “3 Tips to Help Deal With Bad Refs.” I read the article from a referee’s perspective and I agree with almost all of his conclusions. His overall thesis is to stay calm throughout the game and deal with whatever gets thrown at you without losing your cool. Also he posted one of the most hilarious graphics I’ve ever come across about officiating in general:

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Now, I said I agreed with almost all of his conclusions. I disagree with his reasoning for his third tip: Bees With Honey. Chris writes that goalies should be nice to the game officials because at some point there will be a close play at the crease with a score. Chris believes that the official may think, “‘that goalie is a punk, I’m not helping him out. Goal stands.’” Conversely, if the official likes the goalie he will make the crease call and wave off the goal. When I played the game I thought that refs played favorites. When I became an official I realized that it is darn near impossible to do so.

Are there some refs out there that make decisions based on whether or not they like a particular player or team? I am sure there are, but the vast majority of officials in all sports just want the call to be right. For example I had an early-round playoff assignment this past season. I knew the coaches on both teams very well, which tends to happen in a sport that is a tight-knit as lacrosse. The game went into overtime and I threw a flag on a player who I had coached and reffed since he started playing in middle school. Fact is, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. He pushed his opponent into the penalty box from behind. The player was launched onto the ground, out of bounds, and lost the ball. I had three really good reasons to throw the flag so I threw it. It never occurred to me to not throw the flag because I liked this player. He fouled, end of story.

All that being said, there is a grain of truth in Chris’ third tip. I am always looking for allies on the field. Usually I am looking at the goalies or the captains to be those allies. The ones who are polite, respectful, and sportsmanlike will always get my ear if they need to tell me or ask me something. These are the players I use to communicate things to their amped up coach or a hotheaded teammate. I find it more than a little amusing that some eighteen year old can have more composure during a game than a forty-five year old.

So what have we learned? All of Chris’ tips have value, and while I may disagree with a part of his reasoning it never hurts to be nice to an official, but just because you may be a pain to deal with we are not going to intentionally make a call against your team.

Cheers,
Gordon

I Cannot Prevent Fouls

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Whenever I have a game with a lot of flags this comment usually gets yelled out by someone: “You’re not controlling the game ref!” I beg to differ.

The coaches and fans making that comment do not understand that I only have two additional tools at my disposal after throwing flag after flag on both teams. I can either:

  1. Ramp up the penalty minutes and start disqualifying the repeat offenders
  2. Cancel the game once I believe that the players and coaches are not getting the message from all of my flags

What non-officials do not understand is that I cannot prevent fouls. All I can really do is strongly discourage players from committing another foul. Whether or not they get the message from spending time in the penalty box is up to them. I had a coach tell me that I was not keeping his players safe from the opposing team. Despite the fact that I had thrown multiple flags and my hat on fouls the other team had committed.

I was a little confused by this coach. Did he expect me to jump in front of one of his attackman who was about to be slashed and absorb the blow? Perhaps he wanted me to tackle one of the opposing players before they had a chance to hit one of his players. He was still pissed off at me at the end of the game even though the other team spent almost the entire game with someone in the penalty box.

What frustrates me the most is after I call a penalty, usually an Illegal Body Check for a late hit after a shot, sometimes one coach will tell his player kneeling in the box that it was a great hit. It wasn’t a great hit! That’s why I flagged it! Coaches that congratulate players on a body check that levels another player when the ball is twenty yards away undermine the called penalty.

One coach yelled at me, “How can you possibly call that? This is a contact sport!” While I did not respond to him at the time here is what I wanted to say:

  1. I can call that because I judged the hit to be illegal
  2. This is a finesse sport with contact
  3. Your player released from the penalty box, sprinted forty yards to the ball carrier, hit him from behind with the exposed metal of his crosse and managed to ride up to finish in the neck of the ball carrier

These kinds of coaches do not serve the game. I much prefer the coach who asks what I saw so he can inform his player not to repeat the infraction. That coach is working with me to keep the game safe.

Officials cannot prevent fouls. Everything we do is after the fact. I can warn a player to not do something, but I have no control over whether or not that player will listen to me. The only people who can prevent fouls are the players on the field.

Featured Image Credit – www.dailytarheel.com

Cheers,
Gordon

You Ate The Entire Wheel Of Cheese?

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Sometimes young players will do things that defy logic and common sense. The youth lacrosse player is supposed to make mistakes, but it is difficult for us adults to understand why those players commit the same mistake over and over again.

Over the years I’ve had players do the following multiple times over the course of a season:

  • Shoot the ball when outside of the box or from beyond ten yards
  • Clear the ball to the middle of the field in front of the goal
  • Not substitute through the box
  • Lunge when throwing checks
  • Drop their heads when missing a pass, shot, or turning the ball over instead of getting into the ride
  • Rake the ball instead of running through it
  • Try to pick up the ball one-handed through traffic and getting their crosse checked out of their hands

There are certainly more mistakes that can and have been made in a youth lacrosse game, but those are the ones that stand out. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a coach at the U9 level up through the college level yell out, “why did you do that?” Sometimes players do stupid things on the field that don’t make sense. Part of coaching is accepting that odd mistakes will happen and then dealing with them immediately so they do not snowball.

Still, it can get incredibly frustrating when a player commits the same mistake in nearly every game despite everything you’ve coached that player to do. All I can say is that it takes time, but if you allow yourself to show your frustration it will take longer. I had a young player who would never pass the ball on a fast break. He ran with his head down and would eventually run straight into a defenseman instead of passing it to the open player for a wide-open shot. This happened in every practice and every game. My assistant coaches and I did not lose our cool, but we always told him to keep his head up and make the pass when he was covered.

One game this player had the ball on a fast break and he passed the ball to the open player when the defender slid to him. The open player took a shot and scored. My coaches and I were stunned. This player finally did what we wanted him to do. Once he made that pass, he was a different player. He kept his head up and scanned the field for open players for the rest of the season. All it took was one moment and a lot of perseverance.

Try not to get frustrated when one of your players commits the same mistake. Be patient and know that your job is to keep giving the best advice you can to your player until they get to their moment. Eventually they will try things your way and then they will realize that their way is not the best way.

Cheers,
Gordon