Posts Tagged ‘offside’

Referees Are Teachers Too

April 25, 2010

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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Cheating Referees

March 23, 2010

I doubt the following dialogue has ever happened. But if you hear the comments of many young players at the end of games which they have lost, they would tell you that it was possible. After all, it was the cheating referees who contributed to or resulted in the loss.

The dialogue protagonists:

  • Referee (Ref).
  • Assistant Referee 1 (AR1).
  • Assistant Referee 2 (AR2).

The referee meets the two ARs behind the goal.

Ref: Welcome gentlemen. I’m looking forward to refereeing with you guys again.

AR1: Same here. Which team is it going to be this time?

Ref: Well, see that player over there (referee points to #9 on the green team). He looked at me funny the last time I refereed his game.

AR2: I know his coach. I don’t like the coach’s daughter.

AR1: That’s Lisa’s Dad? Yeah, I don’t like her either. She won’t go out with me. She said I lacked character.

Ref: What does she know? Well then, it sounds like we have our team. You guys know the procedure.

AR2: Yes, I will ignore all offside calls for the other team. However, anything close to an offside against the green team, I will raise my flag.

AR1: Same here. I will also make favorable throw-in, corner, and goal kick calls every chance I get for the other team.

Ref: Perfect! Don’t worry about helping me with the fouls. As usual, I will make every possible call against the green that I can. Then if I hear one word from either a player or coach, you can bet I will pull out my yellow card. If I get a chance, I’ll see if I can pull out a few red cards as well.

AR1 and AR2 (in unison): Sounds like a plan.

Ref: Let’s go out and have a good game, fellows!

Sure referees make bad calls. And some referees make more bad calls than others. And as a player and coach, this can be really frustrating. When I was young, I was terrible to referees when a call did not go my way. I’m sure many of them wanted to pull a Homer Simpson and wring my neck. But mistakes are part of the game and part of being human.

Do referees cheat? This would imply that referees deliberately make bad calls. It would also imply that the above dialogue was indeed plausible. The answer is highly unlikely. As a coach, it is important to let your players know that their accusations and beliefs are incorrect, no matter how frustrated or upset you may be. After all, it is just a game.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Neutralize the Best Player

November 12, 2009

One year when I was coaching a U10 Boys team, the team made it to a tournament’s consolation (3rd-place) game. We were facing the same team that had beaten us a day earlier by a score of 7-3 (and it was not that close). They had a super-fast, left-footed winger who must have scored 4 or 5 of their goals. What to do? Another lopsided lose would certainly be a downer. I did what any coach would do in this situation–I called on ‘The Glove’.

Strategically speaking, I did the following:

  • This tournament was a 6-a-side tournament–5 field players and a goalie. Being more defensive-minded, my formation had been 2-2-1. For the 2nd game, I changed it to a 2-2 formation.
  • Having freed up one position, I took my scrappiest player and told him never to leave the side of their best player. I told him to think of that player as a hand and for him to be ‘The Glove’. Wherever that player went, he had to follow. As soon as that player received the ball, he had to be right next to him making sure he had no room to move and no place to go. I also asked my player to lean on or touch the other player every now and then, engage in idle conversation with him, and occasionally nip at his feet just to remind him that he had company. But ‘The Glove’ was too shy so he never applied these additional suggestions.

The result was as follows:

  • The other player was completely shut down. He got frustrated early on, lost his temper, and received a yellow card for foul language.
  • The other players started engaging in some unnecessarily rough and unsportsmanlike behavior resulting in more yellow cards being shown.
  • The other coach and I got into a heated exchange when I asked him to control his players’ tactics and he would not comply.
  • The boys won 6-0! Talk about a simple tactical change making a huge difference.

Countering ‘The Glove’

There are a few things you can do to counter this strategy. The first time this happens to your better player, take him out of the game and explain to him what is happening. Tell him that it is the price for being good and for him to get used to it. Tell him not to get frustrated or lose his cool. Tell him that’s what the other team wants to happen. Then employ one or more of these tactics

  • You could have him move around and try to lose ‘The Glove’. But in all likelihood once the first glove gets tired, another glove will be brought on. Instead, accept the tight marking and slow his game down. Then, when he wants the ball, have him quickly separate himself from ‘The Glove’ in the form of a quick burst.
  • Have him go stand next to the center back and see how the other team reacts to two players covering the one player. If the center fullback moves, have your player follow him.
  • Consider playing your player in the back or midfield. Since you player is considered less of a threat to score, the other coach will likely remove ‘The Glove’ after a while.
  • Have your player play in an offside position–not just a few feet but more like 20-30 yards. See how the other team responds to this strategy.

Referee the Way You Would Want Your Game Refereed

October 1, 2009

I have many, many pet peeves. When it comes to refereeing, my biggest is when a referee or assistant referee (AR) simply does not put forth the effort.

I would like to see all referees recite the following oath before receiving or renewing their referee license: I will referee all games the way I would want my games refereed. If you can’t or don’t believe in this, then you should not be a referee.

I understand many referees may never have played soccer or will never play. That’s OK. Then these referees should recite this backup oath: Soccer players, coaches, fans, and my fellow colleagues deserve 100% of my effort each and every time I referee a game.

Nothing upsets me more than when I see young, able-bodied referees and ARs officiate from the center of the field or in only one position on the touchline. There is no way you can properly and consistently call fouls, out-of-play, throw-in direction, or offside without being in the proper position. As a center referee, it is not necessary to always be on top of the play but the effort needs to be there. As for ARs, there is no excuse for not being in line with the second-to-last defender. If you are unwilling or incapable of putting forth this effort, then you should not be a referee.

The following is some advice I have received or believe strongly in:

  • Don’t officiate too many games per day. While you may be physically fit, the mind tends to wander after a while. 3 games per day is normally plenty.
  • Try to learn something new or improve in some way every time you referee. This will keep you focused and motivated.
  • Be in shape

What other advice to do have?

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: No Offside Traps

September 3, 2009

I don’t get it. The offside trap is one of the most difficult defensive strategies to implement successfully, yet I see coach after coach yelling at their young players to play an offside trap, especially on free kicks inside the offensive third. My recommendation is that no teams U14 and under should ever employ this tactic. I would even question if older teams should employ it. It is simply too risky and more often than not will lead to more and better scoring opportunities for the other team. These are some reasons why the offside trap is a bad idea:

  • It takes precise defensive coordination to apply an offside trap. All players must be on the same page and must know and when and when not to push up to put the offense in an offside opposition. Invariably, one or more defensive players will not move up which will keep an offensive player onside. Professional players have a hard enough time playing an offensive trap. Just don’t do it!
  • You assume the assistant referee (if there is one) will call the offside correctly. Oftentimes at the younger age groups, the assistant referees (ARs) are just a few years older than the players and they are just learning to be referees. Many of the young ARs don’t follow the second-to-last defender so they will not be in a good position to call the offside. In addition, calling the offside correctly is one of the most difficult calls to make in soccer given the new interpretation of the offside law. Just don’t do it!
  • The new offside law makes it OK for an offensive player to be in an offside if they are not playing the ball or are not directly involved in the play. This makes the call of the AR that much more difficult and uncertain. Just don’t do it!

Offensive Strategy

If you are fortunate enough to be playing a team which believes in the offside trap, count your blessings and count on more scoring opportunities. The best way to counter an offside trap is to:

  • Test the offside trap. The defense needs to be well-coordinated to pull off a successful offside trap. Test them early in the game to see how well they do. If you have several offside calls made against you, so what.
  • Kick the ball across the field into open space. The player the defense is least worried about is the opposite winger. As long as that winger is alert and has some speed, they will get plenty of scoring opportunity.
  • Confuse the defenders. Have an offensive player stand in an offside position. The defense will become pre-occupied with that player and will often forget the whereabouts of other players. As long as this player does not play the ball or is not involved in the play, she will not be called for an offside infraction. A few offside calls against you will be well worth the confusion this player generates. If the referee and AR are calling this player offside when she is not, abandon this idea.
  • If a player is in an offside position and the ball is passed her way, have her stand like a statue or simply turn away from the ball. This indicates to the referee and AR that she has no intention of playing the ball. Good referees and ARs will not whistle this infraction. While the defenders and other coach are appealing for a call, have another offensive player from an onside position, chase after the ball. Use good referees and ARs to your advantage.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Throw-Ins

August 19, 2009

There is always one kid on the team that for whatever reason is able to achieve much greater distance on her throws than the rest of the players. Coaches should use this skill to their advantage.

  • Anytime there is a throw-in within the distance of the penalty box, have that player heave the ball toward goal. The objective is to create the same type of chaos that a corner kicks do.
  • If the team only has one player with exceptional throw-in ability, hopefully that player can play in the center of the field so she can quickly and easily take throw-in from both touch lines without get exhausted. If this is not the case and you are down by one, make sure that player is on the field and they are aware that they will need need to run across the field to take the throw-ins.
  • Incorporate the element of surprise. If you have this secret throw-in weapon, don’t unveil it immediately. Wait for an opportune time when you can possibly catch the other team unprepared.
  • A player can’t be offside on a throw-in. If the other team does not know this, you are in luck.
  • Add some variety. So many teams simply throw the ball in down the wing. There is no rule that states that this must be the case. Throw the ball into the middle or even backwards. It will make the throw down the wing much more effective when you do use it.

The rules state that a throw-in must be held with both hands and delivered from behind the head. Nowhere does it state that spinning the ball is illegal. The spinning of the ball occurs when one hands is much more dominant than the other. However, if a referee feels like a players is gaining an unfair advantage by spinning the ball, a foul throw-in may be called and the ball awarded to the other team. Teach your players to throw in with little or no spin.

Defensive Strategy

At the youth level, unless the other team has an extraordinary player, throw-ins should not pose a big threat if you do the following:

  • Since there is no offside on a throw-in, never let an offensive player get behind a defender.
  • Treat a long throw-in inside your own penalty area as you would a corner kick. Stack the penalty area with more players who are not afraid to head the ball.