Dr. Dina Gentile coaching last week
Development First: Soccer Officials: Part of the Development Team
Primary focus of youth soccer should be the development of the player
We can all agree that the primary focus of youth soccer should be the development of the player. Educating our players should not end once the first whistle of the game blows. In fact, I would argue that our soccer referees should take over the role of explaining each and every call as they happen on the field.
When youth coaches instruct from the sidelines it becomes challenging to teach and it also becomes difficult for our players to process what we are explaining from a distance.
Officials are right on the field and can really assist our players in ways that sideline coaches cannot during a game.
Soccer administrators can create a link between officials and player development. A gap in understanding the rules of soccer exists when players move from teaching activities to playing a game against another team. Whistles blow, players stop and that is where the education needs to begin. Officials can take a few seconds to say, “that ball was last kicked by the yellow team so it is a white goal kick” or “okay green team you just scored so now let’s give the red team a chance to start with the ball at the center circle.”
Teachable moments are all around the soccer field.
When officials can actually explain the infraction or who has possession of the ball, they are creating an educational atmosphere on the field whereby players will become more knowledgeable with not only the laws of the game, but more comfortable learning the game from the officials.
Strategies for creating a partnership of education with soccer officials
When in-town soccer programs assign officials to games it is easier to control and manage any type of instruction that can be initiated by soccer officials.
Part of the in-town referee programs can contain a component that stresses the importance of verbally explaining the calls so players can become familiar with the hand signals and the rules that govern the game. The more times an official can provide a rationale to the call, the more soccer savvy our players become because they can make on the field connections regarding the rules.
Coaches can also engage officials before the start of the game. As soon as the officials arrive at the field, coaches should connect with the referees with a quick introduction. I take a few moments to ask the referees to just explain each call so the players know which team has possession of the ball.
I also ask the officials to assist with positioning if a team forgets which way they are attacking or if team fails to take initiative to take a goal kick or corner kick. In most cases the officials are happy to help because it moves the game along with a better flow for all.
The best soccer officials for our younger players are those who are patient and who see themselves as part of the soccer development team. Each whistle and each play adds to the soccer IQ of our players. Players learn by doing and it makes sense that the soccer referee plays a central role in their development since they are so close to the action.
Let’s embrace the role of the official and welcome them to our coaching team – they can assist with on the field instruction when we are managing our pitch side duties.
Related Article: Learning Valuable Lessons in Soccer from Other Sports and Dr. Dina Gentile's Column
SoccerNation News is proud to welcome Dr. Dina Gentile as our newest contributing writer. Dr. Gentile is a Professor of Sport Management at Endicott College. A volunteer youth coach herself, Dr. Gentile understands from both practical and theorectical experience what happens on the soccer field.
Gentile has also coached the Endicott College Soccer Team for 11 years. Gentile is the owner/director of Precision Soccer, LLC, which operates camps, clinics, and coach education training throughout the year. She is a former All-American and Academic All-American at Adelphi University. Gentile has been inducted into the Adelphi University and Endicott College Halls of Fame. She is the Pre Kindergarten and Kindergarten Coordinator for Beverly Youth Soccer Association. This season she is the proud coach of her daughters 1st Grade team in the Wilmington Youth Soccer Association. Gentile is also a Soccer Ambassador for Korrio.