Do You Expect Honesty From Your Players On The Pitch?

THIS WEEK’S DEBATE: Referees will always miss things in matches but how many of us actually instruct our players to correct a wrong decision? Or would we actually prefer them to keep quiet and play to the whistle, even if the decision is incorrect?


“I’ve always said honesty is the best policy. We’re life coaches as well as soccer coaches, so isn’t encouraging honesty something we should do?”

On the one hand we criticise referees, even those taking charge of youth soccer matches – we accuse them of bias and leave them open to the criticisms of the watching parents. Yet on the other hand we don’t encourage our players to speak up and be honest about certain events on the pitch. This seems something of a contradiction to me.

I’ve always said ‘honesty is the best policy’. Remember, we’re life coaches as well as soccer coaches, so isn’t encouraging honesty something that we should really try to do via soccer?

Failure for a player to correct the referee when he makes an obviously poor decision only ever leads to resentment amongst the players and friction between coaches. It’s incredible how one poor decision can spill over – the rest of the game ruined because one player didn’t do the right thing.

I always tell my players to ask themselves what they would want to happen if the boot was on the other foot, so to speak. That’s usually enough to convince them to speak up for honesty in the game, and on most occasions, we receive the same treatment in return.

If we can build this kind of ethos through youth soccer we may even end up with a situation where, in some matches, we don’t even require referees. That would be a fantastic reference to the sportsmanship of a league, if everything during a match was organised and patrolled by the players themselves… what great sportsmanship!


Lloyd Buchan
Cleburne Soccer Association, Fort Worth, USA

“It’s important to let the game flow. If players are encouraged to spend time correcting the referee at every turn, we’ll never actually get any soccer played!”

There is nothing in the laws of the game to say that players must speak up. It’s not their job to halt the game, it’s the referee’s job – and if he has failed to spot something, then that’s just part of the game.

A lot of the referees I know are so bloody-minded that they wouldn’t overturn a decision even if they were told it was wrong one. They don’t want to lose face, particularly when they’re being ‘put straight’ by a seven-year-old.

The phrase ‘what goes around comes around’ has never been more apt than in a situation like this. My team know that for every incorrect decision they don’t own up to, there will be another that should have gone their way that they don’t get. We need to accept that referees, just like players, aren’t perfect, and that these things will balance themselves out over time.

I think one of the really important things in youth soccer is to let the game flow. If my players are encouraged to spend time correcting the referee at every turn we’ll never actually get any soccer played!

I think I’d be more willing to trial the idea if I knew the other team were going to play ‘honest’ in the same way, but I doubt that would happen.

Besides, I think the injustice of decisions going against players adds steel to them. It teaches them that, in life just as in soccer, not everything will go their way fairly. It will inspire them to battle on against adversity.”

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