Referee Skills & Style

This page contains information about developing new referee skills, from beginner skills, like being an assistant referee, or refereeing your first game, to controlling aggressive play in fast, high division games. It contains notes from referees and coaches as well as information that is Concord-Carlisle specific. It is a work in progress, so I will try and add new items as they come up.

One of the most valuable skills that you will learn as a referee is to make a split second decision, and then convince everyone you believe in your call. This will be useful whether you are arguing a case before the Supreme Court, helping out an accident victim in the ER, convincing your stockholders to support your expansion, or convincing your kids to eat their broccoli. You can start by dressing the part - look like a referee (yes, you must wear socks!) Stand tall and move CONFIDENTLY. Make your calls loud and firm - extend your arms fully and/or really blow your whistle. When you can, use words to explain your call. Don't keep second guessing the last call, instead focus on being ready to make the next one. You can think through any mistakes after the game to be ready for next time.

Other Referee-related information:

Al Gray's advice to new Assistant Referees


Important things for an AR to remember and to focus on

  • Look like a referee. Wear the full uniform - shorts, shirts and socks. And have the shirt tucked in. If you do not look like a referee that is the way you will be treated by the players and coaches.
  • The single most important thing for an AR to remember is to always stay even with the last defender in your side of the field (not counting the goal keeper). This sounds easy but it really isn't. It is very easy to get caught up in the flow of the game and lose sight of where that last defender is. Youmust stay even in order to be in proper position to make the off sides call.
  • When making the off sides call you must make it immediately and emphatically so that the center ref can see it and call it. If you hesitate and the play continues on, it may be too late for the center ref to blow the whistle.
  • When making any call, whether off sides or ball out of bounds, make the call with confidence and make it immediately and without hesitation. There will be times when you are not sure about who the ball went off of - happens all the time. Make the call the way you see it and make it as if there is no doubt at all in your mind. If you hesitate the players and coaches will question your reffing ability. There is no instant replay in these games - if you make the call with confidence the players, coaches and fans will feel that you are correct.
  • Do not worry about the ball. Many times the ball goes out of bounds near where you are. It should not be your concern. Your job is to make the call. Let the ball go and let the players go get it. Not your responsibility.
  • Learn and use the proper mechanics when making a call. When the ball goes out of bounds, your flag should first go straight up to let the center ref know it is out of bounds, then you signal which direction the throw in is going by holding your flag at a 45 degree angle upward in that direction. The flag should be in the hand of the direction of the throw in - do not cross your body to show the direction. And bring your body to a stop when you do this - do not do it while you are moving.
  • Make sure the ball is completely over the sideline before you make the call. Many times it is obvious that the ball is going out and I have seen ARs make the call before it crosses the line - not good practice. The ball must be completely over the line before you put the flag up.
  • Concentrate and stay focused on the game. If you start day dreaming that is when something will happen and you will miss it. Stay focused on the game and your responsibility.
  • In your spare time, do not be afraid to refer back to the referee handbooks you will have used to become certified. The best experienced referees do this constantly to remind themselves of the simple things they need to remember. And if after a game (or at halftime) you have questions, be sure to ask the center referee to explain.


CC Center Referee Basics

Please remember that keeping the game safe for the players is the most important job you have - everything else is just a game. A few decisive calls or verbal instructions at the beginning of the game can help you keep the elbows and aggressive play under control. Giving loud, direct, complete verbal instructions will encourage the players to follow that advice and modify any aggressive behavior before it reaches a point where you have to throw them off the field. CC coaches like lots of information from the referee - so don't just gesture - explain your calls in a loud clear voice, even when you are not sure of them.  

Here is some additional advice from the Bedford referee assignor:

-- Make sure you blow your whistle hard for fouls and point in the direction of the restart. 
-- Be within 15-20 yards of the ball so you get a good view of the play. Remember, as referees (and humans) we will never get every call correct. Our job is to "sell" the call to the players, coaches and spectators and to do that we need to be close enough to the play and make the right call most of the time. 
-- On balls that are just over the touch line, blow the whistle and point in the direction of the throw-in. 
-- Proper throw-ins require both feet to remain on the ground and the ball to be behind the head and thrown straight over the head. Violations give the ball to the other team with the exception of U9 in the fall where they get a second chance. 
-- Know what "advantage" is. If you see a foul that is in the attacking side of the field, wait a second or two to see how the play develops. If the attacker that is fouled maintains possession of the ball, or a teammate has the ball and is moving toward the goal, or if the ball has a chance of going in the net, call out "advantage" or "play-on" (and wave both hands forward) to indicate play to continue. If the attacker is fouled and clearly loses control of the ball to the defending team, or falls to the ground and loses possession, blow the whistle and call the foul and direction of restart. 
-- Referees should have their shirts tucked-in and look professional. 
-- Arrive to your game in plenty of time to be able to inspect the field, make sure the goals are anchored securely and to check-in players before kickoff time. You should be at the field at least 15 minutes before scheduled kickoff. Arriving at kickoff time, or 5 minutes before, is not acceptable. 
-- Remember to call punts and goal kicks that go over half line in the air in 7v7 games. The restart is an indirect kick in the other direction on the half line where the ball crossed.

Slide tackles: Slide tackles are not technically against the rules, but they are difficult to perform without fouling or causing injury. Many BAYS clubs have been enforcing bans on slide tackles for grade 6 and younger. Our senior referees agree that in the interest of safety, no slide tackles for grade 6 & younger is going to be the policy for CCYS as well. Center referees should be mentioning this at the beginning of your game. This is part of a concerted effort to maintain better control of our games, so please also be vigilant about elbows and dangerous play.

For grade 5, 6, & 8 center referees, please remember that you are in charge of your referee team. Center referees are expected to have flags and to loan them to assistant referees during their games. Please meet with your team before the game and review the procedures for assistant referees. Have your assistant referees help with roster checks and player inspections. If you have not worked with an AR before, please review the job and flag positions and encourage them to use decisive guestures. Please remember to pay attention to your assistant referees during the game, and to give them some feedback on their performance after the game.

Please report the in-town game score directly to the referee coordinator via email; for BAYS games, please fill out on-line game reports for travel games. If you switch games with another referee inadvertently or are part of a team that has changed games because of a last minute reschedule, do not fill out a game report until the BAYS assignment corrected. You must accept a game before you can score it on BAYS.


Should a referee call fouls for U8?

Did your referee instructor tell you not to call fouls for U8 games?  Well most of the time that is true, but when the play gets rough, and verbal warnings fail, you should call fouls.

Fouls are hard in 2nd grade, because many fouls require a direct free kick, and for a game without goalies, that is almost always an automatic goal.  SO a good rule of thumb is to think about the infringement in terms of whether it is really worth a score.  So even if a 2nd grader is pushing (which calls for a direct free kick) you would probably want to call it as something more minor, like dangerous play, which gets an indirect free kick.    

 You can actually say that to a player – “you are pushing, but we will call it dangerous play so that it is an indirect kick instead of a direct kick – next time you do it, I will call it what it is and the other team will get a goal.”    Of course, if the player is walking around shoving kids to the ground and tripping them malevolently, then by all means give the opponent a direct free kick.  And for really violent play, use a yellow card.  

 Before a U8 game, you should remind yourself of the rules for fouls and have a general knowledge of how to line the kids up for the kicks:


list of fouls: 


free kicks:

“Direct" means that a goal can be scored directly against the defending team; "Indirect" means that a goal cannot be scored unless the ball has been touched by any player in addition to the kicker before entering the goal.

One would hope that a few choice words and an indirect free kick or two would be enough for any 2nd grade game...  I think that is what the instructor who told you not to call fouls really meant.  But when all hope fails, please be sure that you know the rules, so that you can make the calls.