If you stay in this profession long enough you will encounter a two-faced coach. Before and after a game this coach is approachable, understanding and easy to deal with. During the game this coach is aggravating, inconsolable and hot-headed. Perhaps it is some weird Pavlovian response to the starting whistle, but these coaches flip a switch that turns them into the Incredible Hulk’s slightly smaller but equally pissed-off cousin.
In my latest experience with a two-faced coach my partner and I were filling in for two officials on a U13 game at a local tournament. It was going to be my seventh game of the weekend, and my partners sixteenth. Both of us were highly competent COC officials who know lacrosse and how to officiate a youth contest. I knew one of the coaches had a short fuse and it was likely to be even shorter as this game would determine which team filled the last spot in the championship game.
My partner and I started the game and threw two unusual flags. One for for spearing, where the player in question lowered the crown of his helmet into his opponent’s chest. The second was a three-minute unsportsmanlike conduct for a very unnecessary slash in a ground ball scrum that was directed to the back of the helmet of an unsuspecting player. The first half ended on that penalty. We assessed the foul and sat by the table.
Two-faced coach, who was very amenable before the game is livid. He tells us that we are not protecting his player who is being headhunted by the other team. My partner and I saw no such headhunting. Then this coach made a comment that really pissed me off. He said it didn’t matter what he had to say because we weren’t going to listen to him. I tried to assure him that this was not true but I doubt I changed his mind.
With this coach fired up every close call was questioned. I passed on what the coach believed what goalkeeper interference, but I only saw the ball getting picked out of the air by the attackman. What really got this coach was a slash call that I made against his defenseman. This defenseman took two wind-up swings and landed hard slap checks against the upper arm of the midfielder. I threw my flag on the second one.
The coach was incensed. He asked if the defenseman was getting a flag because he hit his opponent too hard. I explained that he had two clear swings against the arm, which resulted in his defenseman earning a flag. I turned away and the coach questioned my explanation. In U13 games I have less tolerance for BS so I threw my flag and issued a conduct foul. From that point on I did not hear a peep from this coach.
Two-faced coaches can lull you into a false sense that the game will go smoothly. Then all of a sudden, usually on something close, they explode and it takes you by surprise. Do not allow yourself to get sucked into thinking that your game will be free of issues because a coach is buttering you up before a game. Usually these coaches are the worst. They’ll say things like:
- “I’m so glad you’re here. The refs we’ve had were awful”
- “So nice to know a ref who will let the kids play is out there”
- “You’re the only ref I would want on my games”
The list goes on, but they’re all the same. Comments designed to make you think that you are not walking into a highly contentious situation. These coaches will be your best friend one minute and your worst enemy the next. Know that while it may be just a game, there is going to be a coach out there wanting to play you.