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How to effectively evaluate your child's referee

Thank you to Ken McMahon for sharing his insight in this post. I asked Ken if he would be willing to put together 100-200 words to parents regarding referees and in true to Ken fashion he wrote an entire post for me.

I've titled this post "How to effectively evaluate your child's referee" as more of a "tongue in cheek" title. If you know anything about me or Ken, I don't want you to think it is your business to evaluate referees at all but as you will read below there is more at play when we get worked up at youth soccer games. - Jennifer


Few professions in the World generate emotions more than a soccer referee – especially among youth soccer parents. The question is, why? When a soccer referee arrives at the field for a youth game, he or she frequently does not know anyone from either team. They have been assigned the game by a certified referee assignor who has determined that the individual referee has the experience, knowledge and skill set to referee that particular game. If the referee has been around for a year or more, they may know one or both of the coaches. Contrary to the thoughts of many parents, the referee does not care who wins. Contrary to the thoughts of many parents, the referee does not show up with the idea that they are going to allow one or more players to get injured. Contrary to the thoughts of many parents, the referee does not intend to make calls against one team.

Why then, do referees conjure up reactions from parents that not just border on irrational, but are, in the eyes of non-involved bystanders completely irrational? While there are occasions in which referees don’t do an effective job, in most cases, the referees are at least adequate. Virtually all Club Directors communicate that the most important criteria for U-08 to U-12 players is player development! It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about development. Why, then, do parents worry about every call a referee makes?

It largely comes down to one simple fact. All parents want their own kids to be successful. The most basic way to define success in sports, contrary to the concept of player development, is by winning. Every time a referee makes a call against “their team”, the chances of winning the game decrease. If the referee makes enough calls against “their team”, it makes winning almost impossible. In reality, the calls referees make are much more right than wrong. The referee, keep in mind, is just trying to referee the game and is not concerned about who wins.

If parents want to evaluate the effectiveness of a referee, the best suggestion is to arrive before your team’s game or stay after your team’s game and evaluate the referee. When not caring who wins or loses the game, it is amazing how much better the referee seems to do. - Ken McMahon

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