Choosing your linesman

Many teams across the world face that huge step forward in the next few weeks: moving up from playing 7v7 to 9v9 and up to 11v11. This causes huge problems for a coach from a tactical point of view, with a lot more going on in a game for them to focus on.

It’s not just the tactical nightmare that follows the move. The one thing that comes to mind that I became acutely aware of when I started playing teams at 9v9 or 11v11 was the need for linesmen and that prickly subject of offside.
Not only did I have to get a referee for the game, but I had to pick a couple of parents who knew enough about to run the line and call the offsides. Anyone who watches professional soccer will know all about the linesman and it isn’t nice what they go through… so imagine being a parent and doing it.

Linesman One of the first times I ran the line at a youth match I was made aware of how important my job was by the senior referee who was running the game. He gave me and the other linesman a quick tour through the rules of ball in and out of play. It was just as a pair of World War II Spitfires flew overhead and I looked up watching their progress that I realised the referee had stopped talking.

“You’re not taking this seriously, are you?” he said to me. “I know your type, think you know it all, eh?”
Well to say I was taken aback puts it mildly. I told him I was taking it seriously and indeed I had worked as a referee for a season so I knew the rules. He looked at me suspiciously and carried on. It is a serious matter and when the opposition parents are all howling “CHEAT” as you put up the flag, you will realise just how serious a job it is.

I always ask the parents I pick to be linesmen to make sure they are fair… that is all I ask. I had one parent who I suspected was being very biased to our team and it can get embarrassing when this happens. He was constantly putting up his flag and infuriating the opposition coach, players and parents, and it was creating a nasty atmosphere.

I finally decided never to stop using him when he shouted “offside”, was ignored by the ref because the player was not interfering with play, and as a result he threw his flag to the ground and walked off. You cannot allow these things to give your team a bad name, so make sure you choose a parent with a cool head and a good knowledge of the game to be your linesman.

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