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Code of Conduct Toward Referees

MIFC Coaches Code of Conduct


During several previous fall seasons of EYSA soccer, the Judiciary Committee has had complaints brought before it regarding inappropriate sideline behavior. These complaints by parents, coaches or referees led to hearings where testimony and evidence was presented. Unfortunately, too often the Committee found the coach or his sideline in violation of FIFA laws or the WA State Administrative Handbook rules. We then reprimanded the coach, usually with a one or two game suspension. After receiving their suspensions, some coaches complained that they did not know they were doing anything wrong. The Committee is concerned that EYSA coaches may not be aware of their duties and responsibilities regarding behavior during games, especially towards referees. The Committee has prepared this Statement to help all EYSA coaches understand the expectations for behavior held by and enforced by the EYSA Judiciary Committee.

Referees are volunteers

Coaches and parents should realize that all referees in EYSA are volunteers. All are paid, but most do the job because there is a great need and they are trying to help the sport of soccer. As volunteers, they deserve respect, support and consideration. All games U11 and older have referees who have completed a week-long class and received their Level 8 badge. MOD refs have received 4 hours of training. EYSA referees have adequate training but are not professionals, so all will make mistakes from time to time.

Youth Referees Are Teenagers

The Judiciary Committee's biggest cases have involved coaches of U11 or U12 teams. The coaches were reprimanded by the Committee for dissent and excessive criticism of the referee, who was in each case a relatively inexperienced teen-ager. Why might U11 and U12 be difficult years? Two possible reasons are that both the coaches of the teams and the referees on the field are relatively new to their jobs. The referee, usually a teenager, is lacking in confidence and experience and not used to exerting control over a situation, especially one where adults are present. The coach may feel undue pressure to win, to challenge the referee on behalf of his players, and is not used to handing over control of a situation to a 14-year-old. An unfortunate outcome: the referee allows the play to get too rough, the coaches are outraged and disparage the referee, the referee becomes overwhelmed and withdraws inward and the situation spirals downward.

What would an adult referee do when confronted by a disrespectful coach and sideline? Most referees would stop play, walk over to the coach and say something like: "knock of the complaining and dissent or you're out of here." If that does not work he or she could abandon the game and go home. Beyond a reasonable limit, an adult would not tolerate abuse from the coach or sideline.

Now, imagine a 13-year-old or 16-year-old in such a situation. Would he or she walk over to a hostile and abusive adult and tell him or her to be quiet or else? No way! Most teenagers are very sensitive and insecure. They take the mildest criticism very hard and personally. Confronting an angry, strange adult is well beyond their comfort zone. Therefore, the out-of-control situation they are supposed to control gets worse and worse. The Judiciary Committee wants all EYSA coaches to remember their own teenage years and to show strong sensitivity for all teenage referees.

Coaches Must Set an Adult Example

It is the position of the Committee that in the situation such as described above, with a teenage referee, that coaches have a difficult but clear task: remain poised, in control, non-critical and supportive. They must remember that they are the adult present and that the referee, while technically in charge, is not an adult. The referee is doing the best he or she can and should not be treated in a hostile or critical manner or tone. If you see the game getting out of hand, pull off the field any of your players who are too rough or are in the mood to retaliate. This form of self-policing would support the referee.

In addition to controlling his or her own behavior during a game, the coach must also control his or her sideline. The coach must control his players and any spectators on his or her side of the field. The coach should instruct everyone to voice only positive encouragement and to hold back negative comments regarding opposing players or the referee. If the referee has major trouble with anyone on the sideline, the coach will receive the yellow or red card. Do not allow parents to go onto the field, even to attend to their own child. That is your job. Enter only when you have received permission from the referee.

In short, your role and the influence you have on your players and your sideline cannot be exaggerated. Everyone takes their cue from the coach on how to behave and what attitude to express. Parents will pick up on a coach's disrespect by questioning, complaining and protesting calls. Players will support their coach's disrespectful attitude by performing blatant fouls, verbal dissent or by not shaking hands with the referee after the game. The entire team and sideline attitude stems from the attitude of the coach.

Talking To the Referee During a Game

Coaches must not show dissent by word or action. If you wish to address the referee during the game, do so at a dead ball only. Be neutral and courteous. Do not stand on the field during play. Never use foul language. Halftime is an appropriate time to approach the referee with concerns. Ask permission to enter the field and talk privately. Often it is good to include the other coach in the meeting. Be polite and non-threatening. These measures should help preserve a positive coach-referee relationship. After the game, if you think the referee was biased, not correct on rules, or in over his or her head, call your Club referee coordinator and explain your concerns.

More Referees Are Needed

Sometimes an EYSA Club referee assignor must assign a young, inexperienced referee to a game that might be too difficult for him or her. The assignor often has no choice because there are not enough referees, particularly adults. More adult referees are needed. All parents of EYSA children should consider taking the Level 8 class and volunteering to referee a few games each fall. The younger teenage referees could then do MOD games only or lines for older games, positions more suited to their age and experience levels.

The purpose of this Statement is to educate and help EYSA coaches regarding the behavior expectations of the Judiciary Committee. Some coaches have had to learn the hard way. You can learn from their mistakes. If you wish clarification on any issue raised in this Statement or if any concerns come up in the future, feel free to contact your Club referee coordinator.


Mercer Island FC
PO Box 113 
Mercer Island, Washington 98040

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