10 Tips to Help Deal with Coach Dissent

Emotional outbursts from the coach can be vivid and typically brief, undirected, and often quickly regretted. The referee must understand the complex emotions coaches experience in relation to the match, and discount appropriately language which does no lasting harm to those who might have heard or seen the outburst. Of course, the coach might well be warned in various ways (a brief word, direct eye contact, etc.) regarding his behavior.

When the words or gestures directly challenge the authority of the referee or assistant referees, actively dispute an official’s decision, or are likely to be taken up by a widening circle of players or spectators, the referee must determine if this dissent can be halted through the more formal action of verbally warning the coach. The objective of the warning is to protect the referee’s ability to continue to manage the match.

Below are 10 tips to help you manage coach dissent.

  1. Arrive early at the field so the coach can see you; it generates respect.
  2. Connect with coaches in a friendly manner to show them you’re human.
  3. Introduce yourself and your peers to coaches and their assistants.
  4. Offer assistance, if needed, to help the coach prepare the teams for the game.
  5. The first time a coach shows dissent deal with it right away, it is easier.
  6. It is important to acknowledge a coach’s concern because sometimes they just want to be heard!!!
  7. A quick look at the coach with a nod or a brief word, “I got it coach. Thank you,” often makes the dissent diminish.
  8. If needed, stop the game and talk to the coach. Remind him that your focus is on the “Safe, Fair and Fun” objectives for the game and you need his assistance with this concept.
  9. When you talk to a coach, be sure to get his acknowledgement after you explain and/or make a specific request. “I understand your issue but are you now ready to help me make the game fun for the kids?” Wait for his acknowledgement and thank him with a smile.
  10. The coach is human and sometimes he may be having a bad day which ends up projected as dissent which requires him to be away from the game. If needed, dismiss the coach and ask the assistant coach to take over.

And as a bonus: Learn the coaches’ names and use their names to connect with them.

Dissent is not good for the game and it can easily show up in all matches. It is important that we, referees, lead the effort and team up with coaches and parents to eliminate it.

-Courtesy of USSF