Tag Archives: foul

What Really Matters When Officials Call Offside

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new rules for 2014

Over the last few years years the offside call has changed, but confusion over it still reigned. This year, youth and NFHS games will use the same offside call as college. Here are the particulars:

  • Offside must disadvantage one team or advantage another
  • Offside can only be called when:
    • The offense has more than 6 players while on offense
    • The defense has more than 7 players (six field players + 1 goalie) while on defense
  • Offside is no longer a free clear

Sometimes a player blatantly offside will not get called because no advantage or disadvantage has been made. Is there any advantage to the offensive team if youth player forgets where he is and steps a few steps over the midline while the ball is near the end line? No. The ball is 40+ yards away from that player. Now if the ball is thrown up near the midline and the player is still offside, then that call should be made, but if there is no bearing on the play then offside probably will not be called.

The rule requiring teams to have 4 players back on defense and 3 players back on offense was removed in 2012. This year the wording of the rule was changed further to encourage officials to count forward while in transition because it does not matter how few players are behind the midline when there is a settled situation on the other side.


The diagram above shows the blue team on offense. The blue team has six offensive players, and the red team has seven defensive players. It does not matter that blue has only three players on their defensive end or that red has only one attackman in their offensive end. It only matters if you have too many players on the side of the field that you are playing on either offense or defense.


The above diagram shows almost the exact same situation as the earlier image, but look closely. Red has seven players on defense but only one on their offensive end (perfectly good). Blue has three players on their defensive end (good so far), but they have seven players on offense – Immediate whistle, Offside, Red ball at the spot the ball was when the whistle was blown.


The above diagram switches the situation. This time blue has six players on offense, and four players on defense (good to go). Red has only two players in their offensive end (perfectly fine), but eight players on defense – Flag down, slow whistle, 30-second technical foul against red.

I’ve shown you not offside, blue offside, and red offside. Now look below.


This is not offside, but it is too many men for the red team. They have eight players on defense and three players in their offensive end. The foul for too many men is still a 30-second technical, and if the on field officials call this offside don’t worry about it as the penalty is exactly the same.

I mentioned it early on, but I’ll reiterate it here: Loose ball offside, or offside while in possession is no longer an automatic free clear! Offside is now a spot foul like warding, loose ball pushing, moving picks, and interference. The ball should be restarted at or near the spot the play was whistled dead.

Study the diagrams in this post as the visuals help out much more than the written explanations, and in the interest of quick restarts coach your players to place the ball on the ground if they are whistled for a violation instead of rolling it off somewhere.


He Didn’t Mean It!

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he didn't mean it!

Intent is a very difficult thing to see as a referee, which is why it is not factored into our decision making nearly as much as most people think it is. I cannot look into the mind of a fourteen-year-old midfielder while he is slashing his opponent who is going for a ground ball. All I can see is a slash, and based off how severe the action is I will assess a 1, 2, or 3 minute foul (or perhaps a non-releasable foul if it was especially violent and makes contact with the head or neck). I’m not trying to be mean to the young kid, but he did something bad that impacted another player’s safety so I will punish him with a penalty that I judge is adequate to the crime. Intent has very little impact in what I call.

When I was little I thought saying, “I didn’t mean to do it,” was my get out of jail free card. Even though it never worked with my parents or teachers, I kept repeating it until I realized that I should probably just own up to doing something wrong instead of making an excuse or blaming someone else. So it surprises me when I officiate a youth game and flag a slash, offside, late hit, or holding that I sometimes hear, “Ah ref, he didn’t mean it!” from either the adult coach or parent on the sideline who definitely knows that particular excuse does not work.

I do not care what the player meant to do. I care about what he did. I’ve had players at almost every age level walk by me on their way to the penalty box and quietly tell me, “sorry ref, I didn’t mean to, but I caught him high and I’ll keep my stick lower from now own.” While I marvel at the player taking responsibility I hear from coaches and fans:

  • “That wasn’t a foul!” (yet the player agrees with me, curious)
  • “You’re picking on him cause we’re winning (or losing)!”
  • “He’s the biggest kid on the field what is he supposed to do bend his legs when he hits someone smaller?” (yes)
  • “He wouldn’t have done that if you could throw a flag on the other team once in a while!” (suddenly it is my fault for someone else’s transgressions)

I deal with silly comments because the player and I know the situation. The next time he steps onto the field he will try to play a little more under control, and I likely won’t have to throw my flag on him.

I threw a flag a while back on a player who cursed at me. I reported a 30-second conduct foul to the bench and once the coach heard the number he yelled, “That can’t be right. He is the nicest kid on my team and I’ve never heard him curse!” This comment threw me for a loop. I never reported to the table that the player wasn’t nice or was a bad person. I reported, “Red, 27, Conduct, 30-seconds.” Even the nicest players in the world can make an on-field mistake, and even the most regularly penalized players on a team are capable of being good sports at a critical moment.

The big penalties for 2014 at the high school and youth level are for targeting the head/neck and blindside hits. They will carry a 2-minute non-releasable penalty, and I reffed a few games this fall under those new rules. My partner and I double-flagged a cross-check to another player’s neck. This player got hit right in the adam’s apple and was sent flying. We assessed a 2-minute non-releasable Illegal Body Check, and that player’s coach was adamant that there was no “malicious intent” so it should just be a 1-minute releasable penalty. I didn’t see revenge in the player’s eyes when he hit the kid, or sense that his aura was red and angry before the hit. All I saw was a high hit, which goes straight to 2-minutes non-releasable.

We tell our young players to accept responsibility on and off the field, but they get mixed messages when they commit a penalty and the first words from their adult coach or the spectators are, “come on ref, he didn’t mean to do that!” Let’s work on keeping the message of personal responsibility the same to our players at home, at school, and on the field. Because if that excuse doesn’t work on me it likely won’t work on a police officer or a judge.



No Mercy!

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I’m reffing yet another game at yet another summer tournament. One U11 team is clearly superior to their opponent and the score quickly becomes one-sided. Yet the entire coaching staff of the leading team, led on by their head coach, repeatedly yells out “No Mercy!” after every goal they score. In what would eventually be a 15-2 beating these outbursts got old really quick. From what I could tell this behavior started with the head coach. He was the first to start yelling out “No Mercy!” and was quickly followed by his assistant coaches, who were then followed by the players on the bench. Everyone on the dominating team was thoroughly enjoying their epic victory.

Maybe my years as an official help me maintain a level of cool when I’m on the sidelines coaching, but that isn’t the core reason. If I behaved like a child during a youth game my dad would pull me out of the game and park my behind on the bench. He was acting like an adult while the coaches in my summer tournament game were acting like children. Winning wasn’t enough for these thirty to forty-five year old men. They needed to humiliate their opponent while on the road to victory.

After hearing all I cared to hear during the first half I told the head coach at halftime that the next time I heard “No Mercy!” I would issue a conduct foul on his team. He seemed perplexed when I gave him my ultimatum, but I was even more perplexed. I was struggling to understand why I, a twenty-five year old, had to explain to a forty-five year old that screaming “No Mercy!” when their team is up by ten goals is distasteful in a game with eight, nine and ten year olds.

It has been my experience that kids naturally gloat over one another. Most of the time it is good-natured ribbing, but sometimes an adult needs to step in and explain to the kids involved that there is a line that should not be crossed when you are the better player or on the better team. Kids need to learn that how you win is far more important that just winning. Mariano Rivera is finishing his last season with the Yankees. He has been a dominate closer for his entire career, and he wins with class. A-Rod, on the other hand, is a very accomplished baseball player but is now forever tarnished by PED usage. Both are winners, but Mo is the one who will be remembered fondly.

I can’t stand adult coaches acting like children in youth games. I am constantly amazed that the parents of these players even stick with the program when this behavior is evident, but their team is winning so what is the harm really? The harm is that when these kids get to high school I repeatedly send them to the box for unsportsmanlike behavior. They never learned to win with class as youngsters and they bring an overinflated view of themselves into high school ball.

If you’re unfamiliar with the featured image above go watch the original Karate Kid. You can yell “No Mercy” all you want, but eventually someone is going to out work you while you were spending all your time coming up with new insults.

Bow To Your Sensei!