Tag Archives: penalty

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.

Cheers,
Gordon

 

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:

refs-bad-calls

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

Fair But Not Equal

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Fair But Not Equal

A few times during the season I will inevitably get a coach that yells to me, “How is it that my team has seven penalties and the other team only has two?” The off-the-cuff answer of, “well coach, your team is fouling more,” rarely goes over well. I will usually respond with one of two phrases:

  1. “Coach I’m just calling what I see”
  2. “Coach I’m calling the game fair but not equal”

The idea of fair but not equal is a tough concept to get for many people. If the officials are calling all the penalties on the Red team then clearly the officials are against the Red team. The idea that the Red team may actually be fouling more than the Blue team is not often brought into the discussion.

For example I had a youth game late in the season and my partner and I threw about fifteen flags on one team to the other team’s three. You look at the box score of the game and the disparity between the two teams on penalty time is vast. The team that we threw all of the flags on were fouling big time. Huge wind-up checks that never found the stick or glove. Hits with a twenty yard running start, and hits that were well away from the ball. Never forget that an official’s primary job is safety. So in the interest of safety my partner and I kept throwing our flags hoping that this team would get the message.

The coach of the penalized team complained to me that I was not calling things equally. I told him he was absolutely right. There is nothing in the job description of an official to balance out the scorebook on penalty minutes. I’m not looking for fouls on the other team just because I threw five flags in a row on their opponent. If the other team is not fouling then trying to manufacture fouls on them would be considerably unfair. The second job of every official is fairness, and if we try to call things equally we inevitably find ourselves not being fair.

I told the coach I was only going to call what I saw and judged to be a penalty. His team continued to rack up time in the penalty box while their opponent played under control. His team lost the game. Not because of the calls my partner and I made, but because his team could not check with discipline. Believe it or not, most officials do not like throwing flags and penalizing players. However, it is our job to make the necessary calls when players go beyond the rules of the game. I do not hesitate in making calls when I have to, but I am never going to try and even out the flags I throw between two teams so everyone has the same net amount of penalty minutes. That would be equal but not fair.

Cheers,
Gordon