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Six tips for coaches who referee
With a shortage of referees at grassroots levels, coaches will often have to officiate matches themselves. Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey offers advice for coaches taking on the role of match official.
01 ENJOYMENT IS KEY
My golden rule for any referees who ask, especially those coaches who are stepping in to officiate in a game at grassroots level, is go out and enjoy yourself and do everything with a smile on your face. The game should always be about enjoyment and if you crack one or two jokes with players, I think you’ll find you’ll get a good response from them.
02 EARN RESPECT
It is important to treat all players with respect and as equals. If you do that I think you’ll find that it’s the best way to earn respect yourself. There are things you shouldn’t do too – you shouldn’t act like a strict school teacher or policeman, and you should always avoid talking down to players, especially when you’re working with young footballers at a grassroots level.
03 LET IT FLOW
As an ex-player myself, I advocate letting the game flow wherever you can. At the top level, I think the constant assessments and scrutiny that referees are under nowadays makes it very difficult to do that, but at grassroots level I think it is much more achievable. And whenever you can, look to play the advantage for the attacking team when they are going forward.
04 KEEP FIT
Fitness-wise, I would always say to referees that they should train as if they are a player as they need that level of fitness for sure. Coaches will want to stay fit, irrespective of whether they referee or not, so that usually shouldn’t be a problem. The game is quick and if a coach is refereeing he will need to keep up with that pace – long-distance running is a good exercise to prepare you.
05 KEEP UP WITH THE PLAY
Positional awareness is important when taking charge of a match but it will come to you more and more as you referee, so you shouldn’t worry too much about it as a coach. The most important thing to do when refereeing is to be able to get from box to box quickly and to try be in the active areas of the field, without becoming an obstruction to play.
06 DON’T ALLOW ABUSE
I once heard a referee getting a lot of abuse from a parent at a youth match in Bolton. I went over to the referee to tell him to report the behaviour and that I would also submit a report to the Lancashire Football Association. Every referee deserves respect and any abuse directed at them is unacceptable. Report any problems to your local football association.