In many ways, it is disappointing that I am writing about good sportsmanship making a 2-3 goal difference per game. In an ideal world, we–players, coaches, and parents–would all exhibit good sportsmanship. Unfortunately, we know that this is rarely the case. But those teams whose players, coaches, and parents exhibit good sportsmanship will have an advantage over a team of poor sports in the eyes of the most important person/people on the soccer field–the referees.
Referees are just like you and me. They love the sport of soccer, don\’t like individuals who complicate their lives, and like all of us, make mistakes. Referees are human. And because they are human, they will see and appreciate good sportsmanship.
These are some examples of good sportsmanship:
- If a player fouls an opponent, have the player who committed the foul ask the opponent if he is OK. Extend a hand to help him up.
- Don\’t argue or talk back to the referee. If he made a bad call, keep in mind that the referee has made far fewer mistakes than your players.
- Be respectful.
- If an opponent is upset at a player and tries to provoke a confrontation, ignore the challenge. Walk away and let the referee handle the confrontational player.
- Adhere to the referee\’s pre- and in-game instructions. If you are supposed to sub at midfield, sub at midfield. If you and your players are supposed to be 4 feet off the touch line, be 4 feet off the touch line.
As a referee, my job is to judge and call a game with complete impartiality and neutrality. To the best of my ability, I always try to live by this principle. But I am human. I notice and appreciate well-mannered players, coaches, and parents. I also notice and don\’t appreciate poorly-behaved players, coaches, and parents. Therefore, if I am a referee:
- Would I withhold issuing a yellow card on a hard foul if the player who committed the foul shows remorse and compassion toward the fouled player? Maybe.
- Would I only show a yellow card instead of a straight red on an extremely hard foul if the player who committed the foul shows remorse and compassion toward the fouled player? Maybe.
- Would I not punish a well-mannered coach and team if he accidentally had too many players on the field? Maybe.
- Would I call a direct free kick instead of a penalty on a foul committed by a well-mannered and respectful player that took place only a few inches inside the penalty area? Maybe.
As you can see, I have listed four infractions that if called differently, could have had a huge impact on the outcome of a game. Not that good sportsmen and well-behaved players should ever get favorable calls. But I know for a fact that exhibiting this behavior and character can\’t hurt. However, good sportsmanship and behavior should always be practiced, PERIOD! It will make the beautiful game that much more beautiful.
This one is easy. Show better sportsmanship and behavior than the opponent. Remember, soccer is not just about winning games. It is also about teaching and building character. No one likes a poor sport.