A Coaches Guide to Respecting Officials

By Simon Murphy

Coaching is a difficult job. Coaches are often the first ones to receive the blame for a loss, and the last ones to receive the credit for a win. While we should never under-appreciate the difficulty the coaches role, particularly as a volunteer, coaches are ultimately responsible for policing the way their team communicates and interacts with the match officials.

We’ve all been to a match, at any level, where hot-headed supporters and parents completely ruin the experience for everyone. For a majority of youths sports, the referees and umpires are simply learning and developing their skills, just like the players. Parents, coaches and fans would be horrified to witness abuse directed toward a young player developing skills and participating in a match to have fun, so why is the referee or umpire treated differently?

We’ve compiled our top tips for coaches to set an example of respect for your team:

  1. Shake the referees hand before the game – One of our previous posts encourages referees to seek out coaches and introduce themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes an official is doing back to back games and can’t necessarily complete this. Being proactive to make contact with a referee or umpire and learn their name is a great sign of respect. Remember, the officials are nervous before games too.
  2. Ask for clarification rather then berating decisions – Sometimes its difficult to understand a certain decision or ruling. Rather than yelling and screaming because you disagree, wait until the referee has an opportunity to provide a further explanation of what happened. There is a respectful way to interact and have a conversation with an official.
  3. Monitor the behaviour of your parents and supporters – This might be the most important tip and often has the biggest impact on the officials match experience. Coaches don’t necessarily understand the risks to referees from parents and supporters. Identifying any consistent abuse or outwardly aggressive behaviour from parents and supporters can be very effective in setting the culture of a team and set standards for sideline behaviour. It can also prevent any serious incidents from occurring if gentle reminders are provided when behaviour starts to become inappropriate.
  4. It’s. Just. A. Game. – The pressure from games can sometimes feel overwhelming, and everyone goes into every game hoping to win. However, it helps to remember that it’s just a game, and everyone deserves respect, regardless of how you interpret anyone’s performance to have been. You’ll never regret taking breathe when you’re frustrated and providing positive words of encouragement for your team rather than negative abuse towards an official.

Some key points to remember:

  • Being aggressive towards an officials won’t help their performance, will most likely make it worse and will sour the sporting environment for everyone.
  • Coaches have a responsibility to set an example for their players and the parents and supports of players.
  • It’s OK to want an explanation for a decision you might not understand, its not OK to berate an official.
  • At the end of the day, it’s just a game. Everyone at the game is here because they love their sport.

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