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AYSO Region 78 Hollywood-Wilshire

Real questions from REF VOLUNTEERS answered by certified and experienced REFEREES

Q: At a 10U match, the referee ignored about 5 handballs and only called 2 of them.  The parents and coaches were getting upset because the ref’s calls seemed inconsistent.  After the game the referee said he didn’t call the ones that were accidental.  Isn’t a handball always a foul even if it was not careless?
A: This is a common question and seems to come from some common misconceptions.  First, there is no such thing as a “handball” in soccer.  The wording of the foul (found in Law 12) is handling the ball deliberately (other than by a goalkeeper in her own area).  Second, the handling must have been deliberate in the opinion of the referee.  Judging it often depends on the age and skill of the player, whether the hand moves toward the ball or the ball toward the hand, the distance between the player and the ball when it is kicked and if the hand is away from the body or close to the body in a natural position.   For example, if a ball is kicked hard at an 8U, 10U or 12U player standing only a few feet away, and that player reflexively puts up her hands/arms to protect herself, I would be unlikely to call that deliberate handling even if her hands/arms come in contact with the ball.  However, if a player has his arms up and away from his body, the ball comes from some distance and hits his hand or arm, that is more likely to be judged deliberate handling.  It does not matter whether the player gains an advantage.  You are only judging whether the ball came into contact with a hand or arm and whether it was deliberate.  The restart is a direct free kick or a penalty kick, if the foul occurred in the penalty area.

Q: In a 10U match, one of the coaches was really intense, challenging my calls almost from the start, loudly criticizing both me and the players.  I asked him a couple of times to calm down but he didn’t.  Then he started saying I wasn’t being fair, that I was favoring the other team.  I tried to reason with him and didn’t want to be thin skinned but was getting both angry and defensive.  By the end of the match, I was asking myself why I signed up in the first place.  How would you deal with this situation?
A:  Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem.  In a recent California Parks and Rec Association survey, 48% of the respondents said the biggest problems in youth sports was “out of control parents/spectators”; 30% said it was “win at all costs coaches”.   Some helpful tips on how to deal with difficult coaches can be found here:   

Your job is to make the match fun fair and safe.  The coach you describe does not know or has forgotten that he is part of the AYSO Team (coaches, referees and parents) who must work together for the children.  Remind the coach to be Positive, Instructional and Encouraging (“PIE”) and ask him not to criticize the players.  In response to him criticizing you, be firm but friendly.  Feel free to say a few words during play, “No foul, the ball hit the hand” or “The ball was already out when red kicked it”.  If he continues to challenge you, pass close by and say calmly and quietly that you appreciate his enthusiasm but you have to be the only person calling fouls.   If he keeps criticizing your calls, it is likely that his team will start to follow suit, which is a quick way for you to lose control of the match. If the coach still does not cooperate, the next time the ball goes out of touch, blow your whistle to stop the restart and bring the coach out onto the field where you two can talk privately.   Thank him for volunteering and ask for his cooperation in creating a good environment for the children.   Ask if he has a certified assistant coach on the touchline and tell him that if he continues to criticize your calls, you will dismiss him.   If there is no certified assistant coach, the match will be terminated.  After the match, submit a report to the division commissioner and regional Commissioner.  Be succinct, neutral and limit yourself to facts, not to what people were feeling or thinking. One final thought:  like every adult in AYSO, you are a volunteer.  Don’t try to be thick skinned, try to be yourself.  Putting up with more than you have to serves no useful purpose.  It gives the coach permission to behave even more badly and normalizes inappropriate behavior in the eyes of the players and spectators.  If next week the referee who officiates at this coach’s match is brand new, and gets the same treatment from this coach that you got, odds are that will be the first and last match the referee ever covers.  And then everybody loses. 

Q: I've been refereeing some 8U games and am having a blast.  This past weekend one of the teams had a kick in that went straight into the other team’s goal.  No one touched the ball after the kick in and before it entered the goal.  I didn’t award a goal but instead awarded a goal kick.  Did I get it right?
 A: You certainly did.  New this year, in 8U games, kick ins replace throw ins.  We still require the ball to be on or behind the touchline, still require another player to touch it next and still ask the other team to give the player 2 yards.  The only difference is the ball is kicked in, rather than thrown in. Law 15 provides that a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in.  If the ball enters the opponent’s goal, a goal kick is awarded.  If the ball enters the thrower’s goal, a corner kick is awarded.  In other words, your decision and restart were perfect.

Q: On a goal kick in a 10U match, one of the attackers crossed the Build Out Line (“BOL”) after the goalie had kicked the ball but before the ball had crossed out of the penalty area.   He got to the ball first and kicked it into the goal.  Does that count?  
A: Yes if it had left the penalty area by the time he played it.  No if it hadn’t.  New this year, on goal kicks and goalie possession in 10U, all attacking players must retreat beyond the BOL until the goalie kicks the ball or releases it from her possession.  On goal kicks, opponents are allowed to cross the BOL as soon as the ball is kicked.  In other words, attackers do not have to wait for the ball to leave the penalty area before they cross the BOL.  An attacker who crosses the BOL before the ball is kicked or released is not allowed to get involved with play. However, the BOL does not change Law 16’s mandate that the ball is not in play until it exits the penalty area into the field of play.  As such, while an attacker can cross the BOL as soon as the ball is kicked, they still have to wait for the ball to leave the penalty area before they can make a play for it.  In your scenario, if the attacker played the ball after it had left the penalty area, award the goal.  If the attacker played the ball while it was still in the penalty area, the ball was never in play.  In that instance, the goal kick is retaken.

Does a kickoff at the beginning of ha
lf or after a goal have to be a pass or can a player just kick it freely towards the goal?
A: A kick off can be a pass or (if the kicker feels energetic and optimistic) a shot on goal.   Remember, as of a year ago, a kick off can go in any direction.   (Law 8.)  Some coaches and players (and refs) may not know it yet.  Players (other than the kicker) have to be in their own half and the non kicking team has to be outside the circle until the ball is kicked.  The kicker cannot kick it a second time before anyone else has touched it.  That is the same prohibition as to any restart – a throw in, free kick etc. must be touched by someone else before the original kicker/thrower can touch it again. 

Q: A player deliberately kicks the ball to her goal keeper who touches it with her hands.  I know the restart is an indirect free kick but where should it be taken?
A: From where she touched the ball with her hands.  (Law 12.)  If that happened inside the goal area, the ball is placed on the top of the goal area, (ie. on the 6 yard line) at the point closest to where the offence occurred.  (Law 13.)  The defending team can make a wall but only on the goal line between the goal posts.  Attackers never get to take a free kick fewer than 6 yards from the goal area.  If the restart is an IFK, it gets taken from the 6 yard line at the point closest to where the offence occurred.  If the restart is a DFK, it is a penalty kick.

 Q: Last week I was an AR and made a bad call.  An attacking player was in offside position but not yet involved in active play.  I raised my flag, the referee blew the whistle and awarded an IFK to the defenders.  My mistake broke up a promising attack and I feel bad about it.
 A: While we certainly understand how a bad call can stay with you, if possible, use the mistaken offside flag only as an opportunity to improve, not as a basis for regret or self-doubt. All of us make many mistakes in every match and all of us are volunteers.   It's tremendous that you went out there and each match you do will make you a better ref.

Q: Attacker dribbles into the penalty area, goes by a defender who swings at the ball and instead clips the attacker’s heel making him stumble.  However, he doesn’t go down (so I play advantage) and stays with the ball and shoots!  But he misses.  Should I have awarded the penalty kick or is it subjective in that one has to weigh how much the foul effected his shot?
A: You are correct that advantage is subjective and depends on the opinion of the referee.  (Law 5.)  On the one hand, the fact that he got off the shot suggests that advantage did materialize.   However, while advantage is generally applied more liberally in the defensive third, it should be applied sparingly in the attacking third and rarely in the penalty area.  If you apply advantage and the goal is not scored, awarding the PK will seem like giving the attackers a do over.  Awarding the PK in the first instance would seem to be a cleaner, clearer course. 

Q: A coach in U8 indicated that the opposing could not steal a goal kick.  I think he is wrong, but wanted to check.  I believe this may be a holdover from U6?
A: It depends what you mean by “steal” a goal kick.  Certainly an opposing player can intercept the ball once it is in play.  However, a goal kick is not completed (and the ball is therefore not in play) until the ball has been kicked directly out of the goal area into the field of play.  (Law 16.)  Because U8 does not have a separate goal area and penalty area, the question is, how close can the players stand to try to collect the goal kick?  I would say all players from the opposing team should be backed a sufficient distance to allow the ball to travel something reasonably approximating a penalty area before being touched.   Maybe eyeball 10 yards or so. 

Q: In U8 on a goal kick must the player kick the ball to another player on one kick or can the player dribble or touch it multiple times? 
A: Once the goal kick is taken, a player other than the kicker must touch the ball before the kicker can touch it again.  (Law 16.)  That is the same as for any restart (e.g., kick off [Law 8], free kick [Law 13], penalty kick [Law 14], throw in [Law 15], corner kick [Law 17]).  If the original kicker (or thrower, if it is a throw in) touches the ball a second time before anyone else touches it, blow your whistle and indicate an indirect free kick for the other team.  Remember to keep your arm straight up in the air until the ball is kicked and touched by someone else.  You may also have to show and explain what is happening, where the IFK will be, move the defenders back from the ball etc. 

 Q: Do I need to blow my whistle for a free kick or a corner kick?  I didn’t think so but when I don’t, the players seem confused and ask if they should kick the ball.
A: You are correct.  Most restarts do not require a whistle.  The exceptions are a kick off (Law 8), a penalty kick (Law 14) or a ceremonial free kick (“CFK”).  A CFK happens when the referee is enforcing the 10 yard minimum distance, either because the attacking team requested it or because the referee does so for match management reasons.  In that circumstance, hold your whistle up, point to it and say loudly “On my whistle”.  Then manage the wall and, when you and the players are ready, blow your whistle.   Although perhaps not required, it is a good idea to blow your whistle at the end of a substitution opportunity, once you have counted the players and are ready to restart play.   A common mistake among less experienced referees is to blow their whistle too frequently.  Whistles are never necessary to signal a goal scored, a corner kick, goal kick, throw in or a dropped ball.  With younger players use your voice and your body signals to indicate the restart. 

 Q: I have heard some referees say that players must stay on the field during the quarter break unless they are being subbed out for the next quarter.  Is that the rule and, if so, why?
A: Soccer is played in two equal halves; there are no quarters in soccer.  (Law 7.)  AYSO allows substitutions about half way through the first half and again about half way through the second half.  The referee will look for a ball out of play about half way through the half and, before the throw in, goal kick, corner kick or kick off will signal for player substitutions.  Those are not quarter breaks, they are substitution opportunities.  (Law 3.)  The clock keeps running and it is important to keep the down time short.  Players staying in the game should stay on the field and parents or coaches should hand them water bottles.  In fact, technically, a player deliberately leaving the field without the referee’s permission is a cautionable (yellow card) offense, although not one that is often enforced in lower division matches.  (Law 12.)

Respecting Referees

Soccer plays a critical social role in our communities, as it provides youth players with opportunities to develop as athletes, learn core values, and grow into good human beings. In every game, referees are focused on keeping the game safe and fair for players so they can have a fun AYSO experience.

However, signing up to be a referee is not very common. In fact, it is almost unnatural to want to be a referee because most people associate refereeing with yelling and other sources of abuse. Therefore, it is important that we support those who choose to become referees and help us enjoy the game.
Keep in mind that although the game moves fast and in such unpredictable ways that leads to many exciting and enjoyable moments, it also challenges the human’s ability to see and evaluate incidents with perfection. The result is that referees and players (yes, even the professionals) will make mistakes during every match, and we must accept this as part of the game. Don’t let this part of the game – or a disagreement with a referee’s decision – be a reason to disrespect them, or, worse, physically abuse them. 

In AYSO, we have been successful at maintaining a safe environment for referees to develop, and as we approach the end of 2017, we can say that we had another good year. There are many things we can all do to provide this support for referees, especially in youth games, and below are some practical steps that allow all of us to take responsibility in keeping the game safe for referees and others.

Quick tips

  • Everyone must respect the referees at all times (even when they make calls with which you disagree).
  • The sooner an adult takes action, the easier it is to manage possible negative behavior.

When a player starts to act negatively

  • The coach should mentor him/her, and if needed, substitute the player.
  • When present, a parent or family member should connect with the player and take action.
  • If needed, teammates should immediately restrain the player.
  • Any player who threatens or is guilty of aggravated assault on a referee should be reported so that the competition authorities can take the proper action.
  • Without revealing personal information, communicate to the membership all actions taken to ensure player-and-referee safety.

When a spectator starts to act negatively

  • Other spectators supporting that team should ask him/her to stop the negative behavior.
  • Remind the negative spectator about the concept of Kids Zone®.
  • If needed, other spectators should immediately take action by restraining the person and calling the authorities when warranted.

Training and awareness

  • AYSO integrates the teaching of core values, including respect, within our programs.
  • We implement AYSO's Six Philosophies as part of our mission.
  • We have the PIE principle - Positive/Instructional/Encouraging approach that we use to coach players. We have Kids Zone®, a program that reinforces positive behavior through a list of 10 directives that include “Set a proper example of sportsmanship.”

AYSO provides constant visibility of positive messages that support good behavior

  • T-shirts, banners, posters, etc. – all displaying positive messages.
  • Reminders are provided periodically in meetings, at the fields, ongoing training, etc.
  • Teams, players and fans are recognized for projecting respect.

AYSO encourages players, coaches and parents to take an "annual reminder" via a course that includes proper behavior direction and guidelines.

  • Safe Haven provides training and awareness of proper conduct, which generates great results.
  • Safe Haven also shares and encourages teamwork to generate a positive, respectful environment for players, parents, coaches, referees, volunteers, and all others that participate in AYSO.

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