- Lou Holtz – Former College Football Coach
I have watched numerous sporting events over the course of a lifetime of participation, refereeing, and coaching. Treatment of the official is a significant problem across the United States at all levels of sport. The mindset of the participant, coach, and observer must change in order to eradicate this problem.
The initial issue is the coaches, participants, and fans have a belief that the official is going to get every call correct. Rarely, does the referee or umpire have a perfect game. Just like the players and coaches, mistakes happen. Limiting those mistakes and ensuring the outcome of the game does not come down to a referees decision should be the overriding factors of deeming success as an official.
Questioning an officials call has become an expected behavior of coaches and observers who are involved in athletic events. Why is this the norm? The two reasons I can think this practice would occur are to change the call that was recently made and to intimidate the official to make future calls in the favor of the team the coach or observer is associated with. Receiving unfair treatment always seems to be the overriding factor in these types of coaching and fan outbursts. If youth sports are designed as a learning environment, how an individual in the “heat of the battle” reacts to adversity would be an amazing lesson. Not enough coaches look at this as a learning lesson but as a time to influence the referee and bring negativity to the event.
In school, the work place, in social relationships, and other events we find ourselves taking place in on a daily basis, we fully understand that struggle and adversity are significant factors to overcome to reach success. The athletic domain that is featured as a center of learning should then focus upon how players react to the adversity of a call they do not believe goes their way. What a great lesson early on in life that can be.
The great baseball coach Bernie Walter formed a solution to teach players how to overcome hardship when receiving a strike call on a pitch the batter thought was questionable. From the dugout or third base coaches box he would yell out “Who Cares.” This statement reminded the batter that you have two more strikes to find success. All is not lost because of one call that is disagreed with. Learning also occurred as the batter was able to determine the umpires strike zone and make adjustments as to how to proceed with the rest of the at bat. These types of learning opportunities can also be implemented in other sports.
When a questionable foul is committed in a sport where continuous action happens, the proactive teacher that is coaching the event should first focus on the reactions of the player. Negative reactions such as pouting, poor body language, gesturing towards the referee, and other types of individualistic behaviors are teachable moments in which the coach gets to make a significant difference in the life of the participant. Learning how to overcome adversity now will assist the individual and other team members with this topic as they continue participating in sports and in other lifetime activities. The expected behavior for the entire team should be to immediately retreat to a defensive position where they can best defend the outcome of the officials call. The quicker this is done especially in a sport like soccer, the less impact the questionable call will have on the effect of the game.
It takes great restraint to immediately not question the referee. If learning and education of the athlete is the goal of the sport for the participants, then the focus needs to be on how to overcome the adversity the official has immediately provided you with. Yelling or attempting to intimidate the official has no place within this learning environment. With proper planning and leadership implemented, the score will take care of itself and one instance during a game will not effect the outcome.
Overcoming these types of hardships within a game only happen when the participant is educated by the coach to behave in this manner. Success is defined by many coaches in different manners. One of the items that is relevant to lifetime success is can a piece of learning that occurred on the athletic field have a significant impact in overcoming adversity throughout a lifetime. I believe it can and this is why as a coach I focus upon how the player reacts to the call and not in a manner to berate the official. It is a decision each coach must make on importance of being a teacher to a participant or simply getting caught up in the result of the game.
Adjust your mindset and you to can see that learning over a lifetime far outweighs the result of one call or one athletic event.