I Am the Ref


Tracey had a rough weekend on the soccer field and has lost her sense of humor. Pretty sure she left it in her other pants. I promise, the next post will be lighter (pinky swear).


I have been involved in soccer since I was my daughter’s age. My entire family was involved – my brother and I played, my mother ran the snack bar, my father was a coach and a referee. This was when AYSO first started in Southern California – back when the balls were black and white, and 5 year olds played on a full size field. Maybe it’s just the haze of time, but I remember those days as being long (we had to be at the field at 6 a.m.), but fun. The field was a safe place to be – everyone was learning the game, and we all were having a blast.

I’m back on the field again. My daughter plays, an outside company runs the snack bar, and I’m a referee. I never wanted to be a referee, but I had no choice. Even though I had fulfilled my duty as a soccer mom by volunteering to be the assistant coach, nobody else stepped up. The “n-word” (that two letter word that starts with an n and ends with an o) is a four letter word in my house, so I found myself in class. Surprisingly enough, I liked it. I liked hanging out at the tent in the morning, the camaraderie, the coffee and the laughter that came as we tried to cover open games and shared war stories. It got better last year, when my daughter decided to become a “junior” (teen) ref.

The tent is the same, but the laughter has gone. I don’t know what happened, but the soccer field is no longer a safe place to be. Just last Saturday a couple of U8 coaches decided to tear into a junior referee. At my daughter’s game, the parents on the other sidelines laughed (loudly) when they thought the goalie made a mistake. Congratulations parents, you are laughing and yelling at children. Your mother would be proud.

I believe that we have forgotten some important things about soccer, and I hope that, if we remember, things will improve. They can’t get much worse. The one thing that bothers me more than anything else is that I see the damage this is doing to our children. There’s a trickle down aspect to the poor behavior. The coach yells at the kids, so the parents think it’s acceptable and yell (one mother brought her daughter to tears), and then the kids yell at each other.

Here are Tracey’s rules to soccer etiquette (I know you’re dying to read them):

  1. The game is for the children on the field. Not the child in you, and not for you to relive your childhood.
  2. You are an adult. Act like one.
  3. We are all volunteers. I have spent hours away from my family taking classes and out on the soccer field training, and even more hours at home studying soccer law. It does not mean I’m better than you, it simply means that I am (usually) better versed in the rules.
  4. We are all human. We make mistakes. Trust me, as a perfectionist it bothers me more than it bothers you.
  5. If you think you can do a better job, come to class.
  6. I know it’s hard to believe, but I USUALLY have a better view of the play, from 8 feet away, then you do from the sidelines.
  7. There aren’t any scouts coming out to suburbia to look at your 7 year old.   
  8. If there are scouts coming out to suburbia to watch your 7 year old play, they should not be playing in AYSO. There are plenty of club teams out there looking for talented kids.
  9. The game is for the CHILDREN (did I say that already?).

I hope you read the rules and remember. The other choice is to arm the referees with tranquilizer guns or blow darts. It would make for a quiet sideline, but the kids would have fun.


5 responses to “I Am the Ref

  1. I agree.

    Appears to me that there are a lot of adults out there that haven’t fully left their own childhoods…


    • I have to admit that I’ve been known to get “overly enthusiastic” on the field at times (I’m the one yelling “RUN! RUN! Soccer is a running sport!”. We all slip sometimes. When you’re making children cry, something has to change.

  2. Don’t ever go to a little league game, Trac, those parents are brutal! Buncha ass***… Boy, did I ever miss soccer when my son switched. I think that he missed it, as well. 0-0

  3. Pingback: Merry New Year! | Twisting Suburbia

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