Are you blind, ref!

Refereeing has always been in the spotlight but the emergence of VAR has made even more controversy about the role of the ref. He can’t win even with the backing of the men sitting behind computer screens analysing play. They still get it wrong (or right depending on which team you are on) – we all see the professionals ranting and raving so what should a grassroots coach do when a decision goes against them?

Reacting to the decisions of officials is a very challenging aspect of being a coach, and a tricky thing in terms of making sure your players develop their game in the way that they should.

Pressure on the ref

We came up against a team earlier on in the season who claimed for everything, even throw-ins that were obviously not theirs! But coupled with the pressure applied by a band of vocal parents as well, this had an effect on the referee who, in reacting to the side constantly appealing for decisions, gave the team the benefit of the doubt in almost every 50/50 situation.

That’s not something that you want – nor expect to see – at this level, but it was evidence enough that it happens. Certainly, I would never recommend my players to constantly appeal for decisions – it’s not the brand of football I want them to learn.

After half-time though, I did recommend they were more vocal when they were sure that possession was theirs, be that from a ball going out of play or an obvious free-kick situation.

Otherwise, by accepting that the other team was ‘better’ than we were at claiming a corner, for example, we were giving up a good deal of possession.

When you play teams like this where the opposition players and parents put pressure on the referee, it can be very daunting for your team. You will probably find that your own players’ parents begin shouting opinions from the touchline, and the match can descend into something of a farce.

Talk to the parents

The best solution is to talk to the parents of your players and explain that, as a team, we have to get used to coming up against opponents who try to bend the rules. Point out that we want the lads to learn the game in a respectful way, and always retain hope that the referee will begin to see a pattern emerging in the game and will get smart to the barrage of appeals.

If he sees the opposition calling for everything but then realises your players are only reacting when they know it is their ball, he will respond accordingly, and your players will get their fair share of the ball having gone about it the right way.

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