Teaching Goalkeepers how to Handle an Incompetent Referee

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So what is happening? No sport suffers from the shortage of referees more than soccer. Player participation numbers rise nationally every year while referee organizations grapple with stagnation or decline, leaving youth leagues in a constant scramble to fill empty referee and linesmen slots. Just traveling with my son’s soccer team we encounter dozens of referee vacancies each week. One ref no linesmen, or 2 refs that take half the field each (that by the way according to US Youth Soccer rule that is not legal) or in the worst case the game gets canceled.

So they came up with the great idea to throw out an online course for the refs. It raised the numbers, it covers the empty spots, but destroyed the already low standards we’ve seen in the past years. Kids 13 years of age, clueless on what their doing, snapping under pressure from what they can hear on the parents side and in some cases making up their own rules. Refs make up to $400 per tournament weekend!!

The state organizations know about this, but blame it all on the parents, claiming that the “referee is a human and can make mistakes!” but when we often witness not just one mistake but instead dozens of them during a game, is it the parents fault? Or is it that the referee needs to RUN on the field and stay close to what is happening? Should the referee be updated on the FIFA rules of the game?

Clubs PAY the referees for their services and parents pay the clubs so that their children can enjoy the game of soccer. Referees have an obligation towards the clubs, teams and most of all the parents and not the other way around!

At a tournament in Ormond Beach, Florida this past May, I asked a ref if he knew anything about article 16 of the FIFA referee handbook. The scariest thing is that he had no idea what FIFA was!!!

Enough with the complaining, it’s not that FYSA is going to do anything about it!…

My main concern however is that our academy goalkeepers are getting hit hard and in most cases no action is taken by the referees. Beatdowns, fouls from behind, high legs and most of all swipes at the keeper when in possession of the ball. How can we as goalkeeper coaches protect the goalkeepers from the strikers beating the crap out of them and the referees that think it is OK to do so?

In the past two years, I have developed a series of modifications to standard training drills that help prevent the goalkeeper from being hit hard. I have analyzed dozens and dozens of hours of footage that parents send me. My DropBox has 2TB’s of filled up space! Travel soccer, high school and tournaments from late 2017 up-to-date.

I’ve tweaked many of my training drills to where efficiency and safety meet in every save. Mentally it is not easy on the keepers, especially the grassroots group that need some extra time to adapt to certain modifications. However the results have shown that this extra detailing pushed on the GK’s is working. Less injuries and at the same time the standards remain high.

Keepers being vocal is crucial, being very loud when going for the ball on all balls and not just high is a must and not a rare option. Below is a short video of a horrible and unnecessary foul on a goalkeeper during a U11 game this past season. The goalkeeper instead of breaking on the ball with his arms wide, he has his elbows close to protect his head from possible cheap-shots and as you can see, the modified training worked to the letter in this case.

Look where the ref is located in this video!! The referee is expected to cover as much of the field as possible to manage a game properly. Yes, the referee should have been close enough to play to see this horrible foul and deal with it properly (yellow if not red card). In addition, the linesman, given the very poor positioning of the referee, should have passed the information to the ref. That point concerns us almost more than the referee’s dereliction of duty. The 3 officials that directed this game were all “YOUNG-TEENS” with little or no experience at all.

Besides the referee not handing out a card or even calling the foul. The keeper takes the blow and as you my hear screams in pain, the pain is in both of his arms. Now can you imagine if this 8 year old boy broke out on the ball in wide-arm-mode like he is supposed to? What would the outcome have been? At least the loss of 2-3 teeth!

The above video is the perfect example that we have to take into our own hands how to protect our keepers, simply because referees are NOT doing their job that they’re getting paid for!

This and two other incidents have been reported to the authority that governs youth soccer in both Florida and nationally. The reports included date, place, time, teams, and video evidence. My emails were received and opened (according to my paid email account), but I got no reply!

So, I take the critics from other goalkeeper academy directors and GK coach instructors, but if the refs are not going to apply the FIFA rules by the book, then I have to protect my students from being beaten down.

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