How to Appropriately Handle Difficult Referees

Not every coach can get along with every referee. It’s human nature that some personalities are going to conflict, but there is an appropriate way to manage such relationships. Here are some tips for ways to address referees who you may not agree with.

Returning Referees Who You’ve Interacted With

  • Step 1: Approach them one-on-one and say that you’d like to have an adult conversation and clarify some miscommunication.

    If you, as a coach, have verbally attacked the referee in some way, the first step is to apologize and admit that it’s no way to speak to another adult as you are trying to set an example for your players. 

    Apologize and admit that the heat of competition has gotten to you, because let’s be honest, it has happened to all of us! Recognize that you feel moving forward is important for you as a coach, and you will take appropriate steps to ensure you respect them.
  • Step 2: Ask them about some specific things you all disagree on and how you can better coach your athletes so they don’t get called for the foul, penalty, etc. Wording your approach in that manner allows the referee to see that you are looking to make improvements based on their interpretation of the game (whether you choose to adjust your coaching because of that is a personal choice). Ask for clarification or perhaps explain your interpretation of the rule so you can sort out miscommunications. If you truly feel his/her interpretation or officiating is not acceptable, document all encounters and speak to your league assigner.

Referees Who Are New To You

If there is a new referee, or one that typically has a bad reputation, and you have him/her for a game, be sure to introduce yourself and thank them for their services. Ensure your captains (or entire team) thank all referees. Your players displaying positive sporting behavior may combat any negative behaviors from referees prior to the game starting!

We cannot control other people, but we can control ourselves! Some people, regardless of our actions, will choose to be difficult. We as coaches must rise above that behavior and practice what we preach – we can only control our attitude and our effort! Remain positive, focus on your players and keep confrontational comments to yourself!


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