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A Coach's View of a Good Ref

By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Tim_for_WebAssociation

A friend of mine asked that I pen a piece on a coach’s perspective of what a good ref may look like. Before I start creating a list, it is worth noting that no matter what the opinions of players, coaches or parents are, all refs must be respected at all times. The days of refs being verbally abused and challenged by parents and coaches must come to an end. Despite what you think, they are closer to the action than you, understand the Laws of the Game better than you and have no agenda other than to keep the kids safe and ensure the game is played in a fair manner.  We should aspire to be role models with respect and the way we talk to refs at all times.

I believe good refs constantly display the following characteristics:

  1. Is developmentally appropriate with both the language they use and the way they talk to the players.
  2. Is developmentally appropriate with the way the rules are applied based on age and ability.
  3. Treats coaches and team managers with the respect that they wish to be shown.
  4. Shows the same professionalism and enthusiasm for all games in a day.
  5. Has a deep knowledge of the adapted rules by game format such as build out lines and field size.
  6. Has a teaching trait whereby they are happy to teach both coaches and players why they interpret a rule the way they do.
  7. Handles any moments of tension in a calm and reasonable manner.
  8. Puts the safety and well-being of all players at the heart of all decisions they make.
  9. Is humble enough to know they might make mistakes. How can they not with all the things going on in a game? It is impossible for one ref with no linesperson to get all offside calls correct.
  10.  Has enough fitness to keep up with play and shows an understanding of the movement needed so they are not constantly in the way of the ball and players.
  11. Never becomes angry and vindictive nor tries to influence the result of the game.

With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 10 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to