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Resources Apr 26, 2016

Reid: A referee’s observations from the Virginia State Cup

reid-davidHaving been a soccer coach, manager, or referee in Loudoun County for the past 15-years, I’ve had an up close view on how youth soccer has changed during that time. Over the past couple of weekends, I was part of a referee team covering four U12/U14 State Cup games, both boys and girls. For those not familiar with the State Cup, it is the premier, in-season tournament that allows teams to compete for the State Championship and then represent Virginia in regional and national competitions.

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Here are a few observations from these games:

Significant Improvement: Soccer in Loudoun County has always been strong, but based upon the early rounds of the State Cup; the overall quality of play has made significant progress over the past 15 years.  There is a much greater awareness of what’s happening on the field – we call this “soccer IQ”.  It’s the ability to “see the field”, pick out the good pass, hold the ball at your feet, or release it quickly to a teammate taking advantage of the opposition’s weakness.  The technical skill of the players has also improved.  One-on-one foot skills; the ability to make quick, precise passes; and the ability to make plays “off the ball” are all more developed than what we were seeing in 2000.

Impact of Watching Professional Soccer: There is both an advantage and disadvantage to having so much professional soccer available on TV or the Internet.  Whether you’re a fan of MLS, NWSL, the English Premier League, La Liga (Spain), or one of the other professional leagues – these leagues all play at a high-level and provide excellent examples for young boys and girls to emulate how they play the game.  However, there is also the downside – the soccer equivalent of the NBA “flop” is “diving”.  This is the act of throwing yourself on the ground, especially in the penalty area, in the hopes of tricking the referee into calling a foul.  It’s not good for the game when 11-year old boys are “simulating” fouls in the hope the referee will award a penalty kick.  This happened twice in the same game – the boys’ complete look of indignation, the raised hands, and frustration that the foul wasn’t called would have been humorous, had they not been 11-years old.

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Good Sportsmanship is Still Important: Teaching good sportsmanship is still an important lesson for both individual and team sports.  These lessons start with the coach and then become part of the team’s personality.  Unfortunately, some coaches still don’t represent themselves, their clubs, or their teams well when they lose.  It has long been a tradition that each team would congratulate each other on a “game well played” and the referees for their work.  Increasingly, coaches are so angry with what they feel was a poorly referred game that they will only send out the team or in some extreme cases, neither the coach nor the team will participate in this post-game tradition.

In summary:

  • The state-of-soccer in Loudoun County is stronger than any time I’ve seen in the past 15 years, and it’s still improving.
  • Let’s take the positives from watching the professionals and leave the “acting” to actors.
  • And finally, sportsmanship is important – it’s a life lesson and it’s important that coaches make it a part of their team culture.


David A. Reid is a Grade 7 United State Soccer Federation (USSF) and National Federation of High School (NFHS)-certified referee.  He previously coached recreational soccer for the Loudoun Soccer Club (LSC); and was a travel soccer coach and team manager for the Ashburn Soccer Club (ASC).

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