Brian, a U-12 and under Referee, asks:
During a youth game (U-8 or U-9), there is a stoppage for an injury. The coach comes on to check on the player. Since the coach entered the field to help the player, does that player need to step off the field before play resumes? I know at older levels, this is the case, but am curious about at the younger levels.
Actually, some of your question assumptions are incorrect. Under the Law, an injured player must leave the field if play has been stopped due solely to an injury. It has nothing directly to do with the coach coming onto the field because, under the Law, the coach cannot enter the field without the express permission of the referee and no referee is going to give that permission until and unless play had already been stopped. Some referees read the Law “sideways” and forget that the Law is expected to be understood as a whole, not in pieces. So, the fact that the referee has stopped play solely due to an injury means by definition that the injury is serious because only serious injuries can be the basis for stopping play.
Where things get a bit complicated is if the referee stops play for some other reason (e.g., a foul) and then determines that a serious injury occurring during the stoppage or as a result of the foul that caused the stoppage in the first place. Then and only then does the referee call for the entry of a team official (coach, trainer, etc.) – which, also as a result, requires that the player leave the field. There are certain exception to this “must leave the field” requirement – e.g., the injured player is a goalkeeper, the player was injured in a “common collision” with a teammate, the injury was so severe that the player cannot be safely moved, or the injury was caused by a foul for which a caution or red card was given.
And we would never say that “the coach comes on to check the player” because you have already performed such a “check” and thus the coach does not. There are no circumstances under which a coach can decide whether or not a player is to leave the field if the referee has (a) stopped play solely for the injury or (b) waved the coach onto the field for an injury caused by an opponent’s foul. The player must leave according to the Law. The only time a coach has any “say” in whether the player leaves or not is if the injury has occurred under circumstances where the Law itself does not require the player to leave (e.g., the goalkeeper was injured). In short, if the Law says the player has to go, the player goes. If the Law says that the player doesn’t have to go, the player doesn’t have to go unless the coach/trainer/parent wants the player to go.
Everything said above applies to all age groups, not just for U-littles. The only decision in which the age of the player is relevant is your decision as to what constitutes a serious injury in the first place. Once that decision is made, all the rest of it happens strictly in accordance with the Laws of the Game — neither you nor the coach (or anyone else) has any subsequent say in it. This is one of the reasons why we train officials from entry level upward that, if play is stopped solely because an injury has been determined by you to be serious or if it is already clear to you at the moment of stoppage for a foul that the resulting injury is serious, your very first task after whistling for the stoppage is to wave someone from the injured player’s team (coach, trainer, etc.) onto the field — not to “assess the injury” because you have already done that, but to arrange for the safe removal of the player from the field (unless one of the exceptions applies).