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A Sportsmanship Lesson From Rugby

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

Rugby is a great game, whether it be Rugby League or Rugby Union. The free-flowing nature and physical component of the game make it great fun to watch and play. It seems to confuse many but still seems to grow in popularity. By now as this is a soccer piece, you are thinking I received a blow on the head (maybe from playing rugby?) and have started to lose the plot. 

So, what is the great lesson that soccer can take form rugby? For anyone that has watched a few games, the answer is all too obvious and easy to see. In rugby, the referee is treated with the utmost respect. They are revered by the players as someone who is there to protect both the players and ensure that the game is played in a wonderfully sporting atmosphere, one where the true values of sport, commitment, honesty, bravery, fair play and resilience are the most important things the game can produce. 

It is worth noting that in soccer when a player displays a sense of fair play or does anything that best displays a truly human and caring nature it causes a medial stir. Just go YouTube and search for fair play in soccer. Yes, lots of players doing the right thing with deliberately missing pens but always an attack on the ref – Stoke allowing Gerrard to score, Robbie Fowler turning down a penalty kick, Ajax allowing their opponents to score, Di Canio catching a cross when he could score due to a previous infringement. Wouldn’t it be great if these types of moments were happening in soccer every weekend on youth fields all over the world? 

We need to promote the refs as protectors of the game. Ambassadors doing their best to ensure that the game is played to the highest ethical ideal and ensure that all get to play in a safe environment. What most surprises me is how people react when the ref perceives to make a mistake. The ranting of all the parents and coaches, all of whom might be perfect in all they do and are mistake immune.  Encourage your child to treat every ref with respect, not to argue over every decision and to be certain to thank the refs at the end of each game. Imagine the shock it would cause if all parents and coaches started honoring the refs and thank them at the end of each game. 

It is a simple truth and equation that x amount of games require x amount of refs and within ENYYSA it is true to say that we are desperately short of refs. Which means that those still willing to face the barrage they deal with every game are doing more matches than ever with less rest and more stress as they drive from game to game. This is a problem that every coach, parent and player need to face together. Time for all to spend a quite moment of reflection and consider how their behavior impacts the atmosphere the refs work within. 

Now you have finished reflecting, let's start fixing the problem. 

 
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