Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bad behavior among the youngsters on the pitch

I came across this cartoon on Facebook (with thanks to UK surgeon Isam Osman) and it prompted me to write about a trend I've noticed while refereeing youth soccer games. I've seen a tendency for younger and younger players to imitate the bad behavior that is evident in professional matches.  By younger, I mean nine-year-old boys. 

What kind of behavior?  The first set are comments or complaints about the referee's calls (or non-calls).  "Didn't you see that?" is one comment.

Or, on the other side, when a player is whistled for a foul, the "What me?" reaction is more and more prevalent.

The second set--per the cartoon above--is a tendency to "take a fall" when gently nudged, in the hope the referee will call a foul against the other team and issue a free kick to the "aggrieved" party.

It used to be the case that you didn't see this stuff until the boys were a bit older. Now, the little boys have learned it.

Of course, these tactics work against the interests of the boys who use them, in that they stop playing while they engage in their demonstrations, while the other team just keeps playing--often in possession of the ball.  But that lesson is often missed, especially when the coaches aid and abet the bad behavior in their own comments--or in their silence.

Meanwhile, in contrast, check out this bit of good-hearted sportsmanship from a 2011 Manchester United vs Everton match:

1 comment:

Peter Kokolski said...


Another brilliant post that I will expand on on my side in the days ahead with my own personal experiences.

One aspect that is interesting is the additional requirements that such behavior puts on a referee in general and how quickly this flows down to the "U-In your backyard" age groups. It was already hard enough to just get the fouls right when players were not embellishing, but now that they are, all the more difficult.

I personally have two competing thoughts on it. One side is horrified that a U-12 player will take a dive and try to get a penalty ... or and maybe more on point, a U-12 coach will try to "ice" a keeper during the taking of KFTM (true stories). On the other side is the fact that US players are getting more advanced in their skills and coaching. While teaching simulation skills should not be applauded as it is frankly teaching kids how to cheat, it speaks to a shift that we as a country are growing more sophisticated in how we perceive The Game at even youth levels now.

For my part I don't like it ... at all, and believe referees, even youth referees, do not caution enough for simulation. Then again, none of us became referees to be drama critics.

Great article!