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Why I hate being the linesman

davidscwnewIt’s rarely regarded as the most popular of gifts when you have to hand the linesman’s flag to one of the parents of your team.

You might, like me, have also found it strange how mobile phones start apparently ringing, pulled muscles come into the conversation and urgent dog walking needs to be taken care of… any excuse so as not to have to run the line!

As coach of the team, I haven’t had to run the line for a couple of years… that was, until this week, when I’d gone to watch one of my boys play. Over came the coach, and before I knew it, I was the one preparing to stand up to the shouting and ridicule!

So off I went tripping over the siblings sat too close to the pitch whilst trying to avoid the potholed parts of the touchline.

The referee was chairman of the club and pretty well qualified, with 15 years’ experience as the man in black. But twice in the first 10 minutes I raised the flag and wasn’t spotted. On the third occasion, I stood waving away trying to get the attention of the referee to a chorus of “you must be joking!” from opposition players and parents alike.

“Does he know you’re there?” quipped one of comedians. Up my arm went again as the opposition started another attack. “NEVER!” shouted their manager who was standing half way down the pitch obviously in a better position than myself. I wondered why I was bothering!

During an attack in the second half the ball was put in the net by a boy clearly standing in an offside position. “I’ve given it,” shouted the referee to much cheering from the opposition players and parents.

I asked him if he’d again failed to spot my flag waving. “Look,” he said, “I’ve given it; you were too slow.”

“Too slow?! I am not a professional linesman,” I was about to say – but the moment was gone and I still had a job to do… not that I was enjoying it much!Needless to say I was glad when the final whistle blew and I could give the flag back to the referee.

“Thanks”, he said, with a smile.

In fact that was the only thing that prevented this from being a completely thankless task.

The point of all this – youth soccer coaching may come with many pitfalls and frustrations, but the rewards are plentiful, and real, and when you do things correctly, it really does get noticed.

There are many worse roles in soccer – running the line being one of them!

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Is there anything worse than being linesman?

How popular are you when you walk over with the linesman flag and look for a willing dad to run the line? Funny how thedavidclarke1.gif mobile phones start ringing, the pulled muscles start playing up, the dogs need walking, all in the desperate urge to escape having to run the line. It’s something we’ve never covered in Better Soccer Coaching, the skills of being linesman, but perhaps we should.

As a coach of course you don’t have to do it, I’ve always had a right hand man who runs the line every week come rain or shine. The one who can stand up to the shouting and ridicule, not just from the opponents parents but from his friends and other parents who he normally stands with and moans about… well you guessed it the linesman. You’re right there in front of everyone, not even the pitch to hide on like the referee. Tripping over the siblings that are sitting by the pitch tutting as you knock over their bottles of diet coke.

I ran the line last week as a favour at a boys under 14 game. The referee was chairman of the club and pretty well qualified having been a ref for 15 years. I raised the flag twice in the first ten minutes both times he failed to spot me so I sheepishly put it down. “Does he know you’re there?” quipped one of the opposition parents. Up my arm went again as the opposition started another attack. “NEVER!” shouted their manager who was standing half way down the pitch obviously in a better position than myself.

In the second half during an attack – with at least three “phases” as the experts call them – the ball was put in the net by a boy standing clearly offside. “I’ve given it,” shouted the referee to much cheering from the opposition players and parents. “Are you blind?” one of the 13-year-olds shouted. I was adamant he was offside and strode over to the referee. “Look,” he said, “I’ve given it, you were too slow.” Too slow! I am not a professional linesman, I was about to say, but the game was going on around me and the players were running past gesticulating.

Two minutes later I had slipped and went crashing to the floor. Imagine the commotion on the opposition side of the pitch, the cheering, the whooping.

I might start a section in Better Soccer Coaching so you can send in photos of the linesman in action. Come to think of it I will do a ten point guide to being the linesman for Better Soccer Coaching. One point will be to wear non-slip shoes. I don’t mind be a coach or a referee, but do me a favour, don’t ever ask me to run the line again.




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