In AYSO, we do a good job of keeping our players physically safe because our coaches, parents and referees are very good at identifying possible injuries and immediately taking appropriate action. However, keeping players emotionally safe is not as easy to spot, yet is it also a major responsibility of the coaches, parents and especially the referees.
The referees have an excellent opportunity out on the field to determine whether or not the players are having an enjoyable time or if they are emotionally upset. Referees can help players remain emotionally safe and happy by:
- Keeping an eye on the players as the match is played and identify those that may not be having a good time. Examples include players, especially younger players, that miss kicking the ball a couple of times or goalkeepers that have two or more goals scored on them.
- If the referee identifies a player who is not happy in the game, he can say a brief word to the player to help him/her realize that mistakes are all a part of the game and learning to become a better player. Examples include, “That’s OK, you should see me trying to kick the ball,” or, “Are you OK? Don’t worry about the score. You’re doing good in keeping the other team from scoring.” The key is to say something that will encourage and help the player focus on having fun and that things will get better.
- If the player remains unhappy to the point where he/she is having a bad time, quickly identify him/her to the coach so he/she may mentor the player and help the player remain happy. If needed, the referee may allow a coach to substitute a player who is not having a good time.
- Coaches and parents should immediately assist the referee when he/she identifies a player that needs mentoring and/or to be substituted.
With all of us working together, we can ensure that players have a great AYSO experience that will make them want to continue playing soccer and coming back each week.
Thomas Bobadilla, National Referee Administrator