Tag Archives: referee

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

 

It Takes A Village To Raise A Youth Official

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I was on the far side in a game that I was working some time ago. Red player was legally body checked by the White player and I saw no reason to throw my flag. A spectator in the stands yelled out, “Don’t you have to take a class to ref? Maybe you should take it again.” I permitted myself a small smile. Unbeknownst to that particular fan, I am one of the officials responsible for teaching youth and adult officials classes for the entire state of Georgia. I didn’t do anything about that spectator because I was in a competitive high school playoff game, and I was twenty-four. I’ve spent the last five years growing as a lacrosse official, and over those years I’ve learned to shut out the cacophony of verbal tirades unleashed upon me by those who have likely never read the rulebook or stepped onto the field as an impartial arbitrator. I do not require protection from these absurd comments, but the youth officials I work with do.

Parents complain to everyone when an adult coach curses at their child or their child’s team within earshot of the parent, but I have yet to witness a parent or group of parents confront an adult spectator who is berating and cursing a teenage youth official. Instead, I see these spectators turn. They hear one or two adults verbally attack a sixteen-year-old official, and they jump on the “abuse the kid ref” bandwagon because they don’t want to chance that the youth official will make calls against their team because of the comments from an opposing spectator. So they even out the verbal abuse, just to keep things fair.

From our early days of YMCA LAX I never permitted any spectator to insult or aggressively question any of my youth officials. I maintain that policy at AYL today for one reason – I need these youth officials.

I need these youth officials to keep and grow their interest in officiating lacrosse. By knowing the rules and their application they become better lacrosse players, which benefits the teams they play for. Also, when these youth refs graduate high school and go off to college they have a foundation in officiating that any Lacrosse Officials Association (LOA) would be happy to build upon. We need to keep youth officials in the officiating pipeline for as long as possible to support the continued growth of lacrosse all over the country.

I’ve worked with adult officials who could not take the endless criticism and are no longer officiating because it, “was not worth the abuse.” Men over forty stop officiating in every sport every year because of that reason, and we have the collective gall to assume that a sixteen-year-old kid is actually being “toughened up” by the sideline vitriol. Eventually that sixteen-year-old gives up officiating even though it pays better than a job at the local movie theatre. I’ve worked with many youth refs over the years and I can tell you unequivocally that they are much tougher than you give them credit for. In fact, I would wager a good amount of money that if I took a mom or dad screaming at the top of their lungs off the sideline and shoved them onto the field with a flag and a whistle that they would quickly realize how tough officiating youth lacrosse is.

It takes a village to raise a youth official, and every adult present at youth games has a responsibility to stand up for a kid who is trying to manage a competitive lacrosse game between children wearing body armor and carrying batons. They have enough to focus on without worrying about what piercing comment is coming next from some parent in a lawn chair.

So the next time you are watching your child play and some other adult is losing his or her mind, go and tell that person to start acting like an adult. If you do not feel comfortable doing that alone then find the league administrator or adult staff member and ask them to address the angry parent.

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If you are interested in being trained as a Boy’s Lacrosse Youth Official (14-18) please visit: http://atlantalacrosseofficial.com/2013/10/spring-training-dates-announced-for-new-youth-officials/

If you are interested in being trained as a Boy’s High School Lacrosse Official (18+) please visit: http://galaxref.com/training/adult-officials/new-adult-officials-registration/

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Post Inspiration – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/teen-hockey-refs-quitting-over-verbal-abuse-1.2438081

Featured Image Credit – http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/zebras/images/24515272/title/momma-baby-zebra-photo

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