As an enforcer of the Laws of the Game, once a referee has made a call, it is final and rarely irreversible. The job of the referee is to supervise the game, ensure safety, regulate consequences based on their observations, determine what is fair and what is not.
And because spectators, players, and coaches all start to assume the role of sports analysts and game experts at the heat and height of a game, there comes the debate of good, clean calls vs. bad ones.
It is these “bad calls” that have parents yelling, athletes losing focus, and the coaches themselves receiving technical fouls.
As a coach, what do you do when you believe the ref has made a “bad call”? Here are 5 tips on how to handle a bad referee:
1. Accept that they are humans with limitations
Unless the referee has eyes on the back of their head, superhero senses and x-ray vision, there are a lot of things that they can miss because they can only see so much at a given time.
Just like you and I, referees aren’t perfect beings. They will not make correct calls 100% of the time. Depending on the sport, there are well over a dozen players on the field or court. Even the most experienced referees are not going to be able to catch every action just as you or I could not.
While you are both following the same game, take into account that you will not always be seeing it from the same angle. The referee can just as easily miss something you saw, and you could easily miss something he didn’t.
2. Be the example
Your players look up to you. If they see you losing your cool, they will assume this behavior is acceptable. Remember your role as a coach. You are not there to officiate the game. You are there to coach your team.
If you lose focus, your team will lose focus.
3. Know the difference
Was it a bad call? What is a wrong call?
A bad call can be made when the referee did not see something at the right angle or missed the moment it happened. A wrong call is when the referee clearly doesn’t understand the rules of the game or ignores them.
A wrong call must be addressed. However, a bad call is beyond your control, and there is no sense in trying to overturn it.
4. Adjust and focus on what you can control
Referees are there to ensure safety. However, some referees are just more sensitive to contact while some refs allow the players to play tough. Bad calls may comes down to a referee style that unfortunately, you may not agree with.
Because there is nothing you can do about the official’s referee style, you have to adjust your coaching style.
5. Use technology
If you feel strongly that a referee is repeatedly or deliberately making bad calls, make use of technology to back up your claims.
Because many parents record their children’s games and some leagues even take videos of all their games for training purposes, you will have enough documented evidence to prove that a referee has been making too many bad calls.
A few bad calls are forgivable. However, if a referee is consistently making bad calls, then higher league officials should be notified.