Here's an easy call: refs have a tough job

One of the worst days of the year for me every year is the day that whatever soccer season I’m in is finally over.

Whether as a player or now as a coach, the end always brings a little extra sting. I still remember the last day of my college career like it was yesterday. The Facebook memories that keep popping up this week bring a smile to my face but also the realization that we’ve never delivered the ultimate title.


This year’s high school season came to a quick end with a first-round exit in the playoffs, so it’s been a little bittersweet for me. My season ended even more quickly, at the hands of an official to whom I took exception of his understanding of the basic principles of the rule book.

I would trade anything to be still playing and looking toward states, but because we had our early exit, I’ve been able to go watch some of the other county teams battle it out with each other and with some out-of-county foes.


A couple of years ago I decided to take the course to become a certified soccer referee. Part of my motivation was because my son was looking to make a little extra money. From a selfish perspective, the allure of some additional cash for staying involved in the game I love interested me. The main reason I went to the six-week class was to see the game from a different perspective.

I’ve spent more than 45 years in the game questioning the calls made by most referees. And now as a coach I know more than the refs, so I had to take the class to understand why they kept getting things wrong.

All kidding aside, the hardest role to play in sports, especially in youth sports, is that of referee. It’s no wonder that there is a shortage of officials across the sports landscape.

For whatever reason, the referee seems to be wrong 50 percent of the time.

If the call is against our team, then obviously the ref must be wrong. It doesn’t matter that the refs have gone to thorough training, worked hundreds of games, or have the best positioning on the field to make the call — if the call doesn’t go our way, it must be wrong.

I’m not defending all referees. There are some bad officials in every sport and at every level like my “friend” from Montgomery County. There are also good officials that have bad days.

But, you know, there are also bad coaches in every sport and at every level. There are also bad players and everyone can have a bad day.

Does that give the fans or even us coaches the right to be abusive to the officials?

One of my favorite commercials is when Peyton Manning acts like a fan and cheers on people in various professions, ending the commercial with chants of “Cut that meat! Cut that meat!”

They’re making light of our unrealistic expectations of professional athletes, but what if we treated every profession like we treat our officials?

What if every time a surgeon was making an incision, fans from the gallery screamed at her that she didn’t make it long or deep enough? How about as a road crew is marking their lines, hundreds of irate drivers lined the roadside and berated them for every line they paint, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong? How cool would it be to sit in the chambers of the U.S. Capitol and question every decision and every vote made by the people we elected to look out for us?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


I’m not talking about the comments stemming from the student section that are all done in fun and to show support for their schoolmates, but the questioning of every call by our parents, fans, and even us coaches.

One of the best parts about watching this week’s playoff games with no skin in the game is that I’ve been able to fairly evaluate the officials on their on-field performance. And I have to say, they’ve been impressive in controlling the game, working as a cohesive unit, and applying the rules.

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern once said, “I would say the referees have the toughest game to call. I would say that there's a lot of officiating done by announcers, local announcers. Sometimes you should listen to a game from both feeds, and you'd think you were listening to completely different games.”

Sounds a little bit like watching Fox News and CNN on Election Day!

I’m sure next September I’ll be back on the sidelines letting them have it. But for now, I tip my hat to the job they’ve done in the playoffs.

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