Sportsmanship Issues and The Ramp

The GLOA Board and the GHSA are committed to maintaining a safe, fair and professional environment.  Officials, players, coaches and fans must behave in a manner that honors the game. This expectation is made clear by the statement read by the announcer before each GHSA sanctioned event.

GHSA Sportsmanship Statement

“The GHSA and its member schools have made a commitment to promote good sportsmanship by student/athletes, coaches, and spectators at all GHSA sanctioned events. Profanity, degrading remarks, and intimidating actions directed at officials or competitors will not be tolerated, and are grounds for removal from the event site. Spectators are not allowed to enter the competition area during warm-ups or while the contest is being conducted. Thank you for your cooperation in the promotion of good sportsmanship at today’s event.”

Profanity directed at opponents or officials must not be tolerated.

The Ramp

If a player or coach is losing their cool, the most important thing you as an official can do is to remain in control.   If you can, you want to avoid going nuclear. Immediately flagging someone for Unsportsmanlike Conduct leaves you with no other option and under NFHS rules, a second NR USC will result in an ejection. Use the Ramp, a series of options you have when dealing with behavior you find problematic

Discuss and Restart

The first thing to do is to talk to the coach or player, if he disagrees with your brief explanation, so be it.  Coaches and players will be unhappy with the calls that we make, that is part of the game.  Players and coaches are not required to agree with everything we do.  restart play quickly.  Once you get the game moving, coaches get back to coaching and players get back to playing. This also gets you and coach or player away from each other.  You may even want to rotate with your partner. Again it is important for us to remain calm and professional.

Verbal Warning

If that does not alleviate the issue, your first option is a verbal warning:  “Coach, that’s enough.”  Be calm and quiet. You don’t want to appear to threaten a coach or player. Make sure that you let your partner knows you have warned someone.

Loose Ball Conduct

You next option is a loose-ball conduct foul. This gives the ball to the opposing team without putting anyone in the box.

30 Second Conduct

If that doesn’t work, you may assess a 30 second conduct foul.  You are now giving the opposing team a man-up opportunity.  In-home serves any foul on the bench.  Do so calmly and quietly.  Again no angry flags. It may be in your best interest to have your partners throw this flag so that the action doesn’t seem personal.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct Fouls

You next option is the nuclear option, a non-releasable USC for one, two or three minutes.  And finally a second USC which by rule must be a 1-minute ejection foul for a coach or a 3-minute non-releasable ejection foul for a player.

Follow these steps and try and leave yourself as many options as possible when dealing with players and coaches.  You never want to paint yourself into a corner; i.e “Coach, the next word out of you gets a flag!”  Sometimes, you can let the coach vent and move on.  Its just white noise.

Unacceptable Behavior

That being said, there are lines that cannot be crossed. These include:

  • Profanity directed at opponents or officials
  • Racist comments
  • Player or coach questioning your integrity as an official.
  • Threats
  • Out of control behavior
  • Use of tobacco products

This type of behavior demands that you skip the first few steps of the ramp and move immediately to USC.

Tips for Handling Coaches

Don’t answer statements.  “That was a slash” is not a question.  Unless you have warned a coach, there is no need to address the comment.  Coaches can and will disagree with us.  Reacting to every statement creates an issue that often doesn’t exist.

Listen to the grievance.  If the coach does want to talk, be sure that you understand what the issue is before explaining yourself.  Listen to what the coach has to say and then discuss.  More often than not, “Ok coach we will watch for it” will suffice to diffuse the situation.

Avoid unnecessary contact. Don’t hang around the substitution area unless you are communicating information to the benches or the table.  Keep your interactions calm, professional and quick.

Don’t escalate. Be clear and calm when dealing with a coach who is starting or has lost his cool.  Telling a coach to calm down, making a joke (even a self deprecating one) or even quoting the rule has the potential to exacerbate the situation. Watch your tone and body language; try and be as calm as possible. You do not need to win the argument, you need to manage the game.  You can agree to disagree: “Coach, I did not see it that way.”

Enforce boundaries in a timely manner. Some officials let all comments just roll off their back and others are familiar with a particular coach to know that he will walk the line and are willing to tolerate some of it.  Having a thick skin is important in this business, but it is important to knowing where your line is.  You should discuss the teams and coaches you are dealing with and the process for handling bad behavior t in the pre-game with your crew. There might be a situation where you need to calmly assess a foul on a coach.  Use the ramp! Do not wait until the fourth quarter to address an issue that has been festering all game.

Ejections and Incident Reports

Any ejection requires that the Referee contact their assignor immediately following the game submit an incident report with 24 hours. See Incident Report post for more info.

Remember, our goal is to keep the game safe, keep the game fair and to act in a professional manner. So the next time you find yourself on the field surrounded by an angry crowd, disgruntled players and irate coaches, use the ramp to better manage people and in turn, manage your game.

You can also check out the GLOA Training video on Game Management.

Here is a fantastic talk by NILOA Official P.J. Callelo at the US Lacrosse Convention on diffusing, addressing, managing, and adjudicating behavior fouls.