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Crap soccer decisions (that my own father would have benched me for): #3

If we teach the kids how to avoid this one thing, it will radically improve defending forever.

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Note: This is the third rant in a series of thoughts that you either have shared and were too embarrassed to talk about, or else you’re too cool for me. Doesn’t matter. You love it. Check out #1 and #2 as well.

You’re watching the game. It’s a close one. Tension is high. One wrong move means disaster.

Your defense is playing a high line, as is the team’s style, because they rarely get caught out. They’re speedy. They’re smart. Except for this one little thing, and it happens now, at the worst possible moment.

The opponent threads a nice through-ball to a striker who’s riding the lightning. He’s being held on. Or is he? He sprints off to claim his prize - a 1v1 with your ‘keeper. He shoots. He scores. You scream pathetically. Helplessly. This could have been avoided. You know it. Your team knows it.

But they won’t do a flippin’ thing about it, because you see, old habits die hard.

That’s why we have to catch them as kids. We have to stop this evil that gives up stupid goals. We can, and must, prevent the one thing that would make me quit soccer forever if, God forbid, it began to happen more. Tell your young players today:

PLAY TO THE WHISTLE, EVEN IF THEIR PLAYER IS OFFSIDE.

It seems so simple

Life ain’t perfect, baby, and neither are assistant referees. If a player thinks an opponent is offside, and wastes valuable focus by putting his/her hand in the air and pleading for a call, that player has no one else to blame for a negative result.

Maybe the AR blew the call. Doesn’t matter. Play until the whistle. It’s a lot more satisfying to crow about how you were wronged when you haven’t just given up a stupid goal.

Do your club and your fans a solid. Keep your hands down, and eyes on the play until someone with a whistle stops things for realsies. Then at least if you let in a goal, hey, you did your best. If you do anything other than playing soccer (like whining, or raising your hand like a junior assistant referee) while you’re supposed to be playing soccer, then you have earned any and all ire from your coach, teammates, and fans.

Again, this happens to professionals. Highly paid professionals. In fact, Portland Timbers Designated Player Liam Ridgewell is the inspiration for this entire series.

In the 2017 season opener against Minnesota United, Portland was nursing a 2-0 lead when Minnesota fan favorite Christian Ramirez stepped up and fired home his club’s first-ever MLS goal. Thing is, the match could have been a clean sheet if only Ridgy had played the ball instead of the ref.

He was on the scene. He could have stepped right in front of Ramirez. Instead, Ridgewell stood indignantly and watched “Superman” make history for his club. But he makes gobs of money and Portland won the game, so he’s off the hook, naturally.

Saving the future

I’m making a proposal - nay, a proclamation - that coaches and parents the world over need to stop this terrible habit in its tracks. It’s too late for adult players, but children learn fast, and they learn well.

When coaching your youth player, apply your reinforcement of choice to this hand-raising, referee-appealing sickness. Maybe it’s a sticker chart for good behavior. Maybe it’s push-ups or laps for indiscretion. You do you. But for the sake of the future, please, please teach your kids to play to the whistle.

I don’t know if you’ll take it this far, but I can tell you for a fact, that had I given up on a play and let a kid burn me, my own father would have benched me.

And I would have thanked him.