There are many thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve ever experienced the joys of refereeing you know exactly what I am talking about. The job itself is simple enough–run around and make sure the game goes right and nobody starts pulling nasty tricks (or in my case as a sideline ref stand there and point the flag in the right direction.) Most of the time the ride is smooth and nobody gets too mad, but then there are those coaches who seem to take certain pleasure in making the referee miserable. It doesn’t matter what the calls are or how the game is going, the ref is always biased, alway negligent, always a complete idiot. Their player trips over their own feet…”Are you watching the game ref?!” Their player plants an elbow into an opponent’s side…”What kind of penalty is that!!?” Their team is awarded a penalty kick…”That should have been a red card!!!” Oh yes, and yelling is a necessity. It doesn’t matter if the yellow shirt is five or fifty feet away; all accusations are at the top of their lungs. I should know this type of coach well; I used to have one. Being on the team of a coach like that is scary enough, but being the person holding the flag or whistle is even more unnerving. At our own Memorial Park, next to the high school, at a U-10 (!!!!) game, a referee was pummeled by an unsatisfied coach (maybe parent) for following the rules and not letting the team play because half their players were overage. (When you have 9 year old boys, one year makes a big difference size-wise). Thankfully I’ve never been in a situation that rough, but just getting yelled at as a sideline by an unhappy coach is bad enough–and that has happened to me.
Two weekends ago I worked at the Nevado Classic Youth tournament. Most of the games were very clean, easy to ref, pleasant to watch. There was one boy’s game, however, in which one team was very fond of “flaking,” which is exaggerating a fall in order to get a free kick, and the other had a coach who was, to say the least, verbal. A player would pull a spectacular dive off the ball and this coach would grumble and rumble and yell at our center about how he can’t let the other team “play him” like that, and this was after the center had warned the player who had played up the foul too much. It isn’t just the coaches who are unhappy, the parents as well get into the act, though usually not as openly. (However in the game afore mentioned, a parent had to be kicked out of the game due to some vulgar language directed at the other sideline.) Parents won’t yell at the ref as much as the coaches will, but every time I would trot past them, flag in hand, they would be commenting on how the ref is soo biased, how he doesn’t know what he is doing. I know that it shouldn’t affect me as much, I’m not the one being commented about, but it still is biting to hear my coworker talked about like that. These parents don’t realize that we as refs are doing the best we can and that their childs team is not in the right all the time. You’d think that these people would be a little more grateful that they have refs in the first place; their teams wouldn’t be able to play if they didn’t.
And what’s funny is that the people who seem to get riled up the least are the players themselves (though, especially in the case of a bad ref they will…first hand experience), it is mostly the coaches and parents who whine and complain and this is what, if anything, gets the players riled up. Referees just aren’t appreciated…fact of life. We are the enforcers, so as a result anything we say will fall in the wrong with someone or another. Perfection is expected, so every little wrong call is pounced upon while the right ones are overlooked. Such is the life of a lawkeeper…and it’s a good thing I get paid for it.