Referees Are Teachers Too


I recently published a post with the title, “All Adults Are Teachers.” That post was geared more to coaches and parents who needed a reminder of the awesome responsibility adults have in teaching our kids and that some of our actions, though unintended, may be sending the wrong message to our kids.

Carrying on with the notion that it “Takes a Village to Raise a Kid,” it is important to remember the role of the referee. Sure the main responsibility of the referee is to officiate the game. But when officiating games that involve …

  • Young players
  • Players who don’t have a lot of soccer experience
  • Players who are being coached by someone with little soccer knowledge

… referees should also assume the role of on-field teacher.

There are many teaching moments and opportunities for referees to set a good tone for a game.

  • It is important for all players, as well as coaches and parents, to understand the rules and violations of the game and why a certain call is made. When I blow my whistle, I like everyone in the immediate vicinity to know why I did it.
  • The offside law is particularly difficult to understand. When I make this call, I always try to let the nearby players know why I made the call and which player was in the offside position. Sometimes I will tell a player I’m close to when he/she is in an offside position.
  • Be quick and decisive on all calls. Don’t leave the teams and fans wondering who the foul was on. Point as quickly as possible in the direction that the ball should played.
  • Be animated. If there is a bad throw-in, make sure to mime the infraction by raising your back foot off the ground.
  • Don’t enforce all infractions, especially with young players and when no advantage has been gained. Let the first infraction slide but remind the players that the ball must be played forward on a kick off and that both feet need to remain on the ground on a throw-in.
  • If a player does not know what to do with ball once the whistle is blown, make sure to be close enough to the action to be of assistance. I don’t like it when a referee can help speed up the game by helping but chooses not to.
  • Care about what you are doing. Run and always be in position. You’ll make the right calls more often and you will show the players that you are working hard just like them.
  • Have fun! Fun is contagious.
  • Talk to the players. Don’t talk only about fouls or infractions. Tell them, “Nice pass” or “Good defense” or “I like your sportsmanship.” Validate the positives.
  • Teach and educate but never be condescending. Don’t be a know-it-all.

Though they may not agree with all of your calls, players, coaches, and fans will appreciate the effort to help everyone understand the game better. In doing so, you will gain the players’ and adults’ respect and refereeing will be that much more joyous and rewarding.

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3 Responses to “Referees Are Teachers Too”

  1. Norm Says:

    Well said, I believe to few referees realize the importance they have toward the developement of our young players. To many refs only leave the midfield circle when a team is using it to restart the game.

  2. Bart Says:

    Very good points, although I disagree with having referees not call infractions that they see and recognize. In all sports, referees should simply call the game by the rules for each team equally, at all times in the game. It is the coaches responsibility to instruct the players on the rules, and the referees responsibility to enforce them without personal preferences.

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