In a U14 girl’s game a player from the Red Team takes a few dribbles with a ball and is then challenged by a Blue Team player (#25). The challenger makes a tackle that clears away the ball but also takes down the Red Team dribbler. The tackle seemed be from behind as the tackler was positioned behind the dribblers right shoulder. No foul was called, and play continued. A small protest came from the sidelines that was something like “That’s a foul Ref”, which was when the compliment came in to play. It seemed as if in response to sidelines comment the Ref said quite loudly “Great tackle #25,that was beautiful”. Those of us hearing it on the sidelines were a bit stunned.

Until that moment I had never heard a referee compliment a player while the game is underway. I know you can not comment on whether the Ref was trying to send a message to the sidelines as you have no way of knowing her frame of mind. But should a Ref ever comment on play in that way? Is there anything in the rules or advise that speaks to this?

USSF answer (March 31, 2010):
Although he laid it on a bit thick, the referee was trying to use psychology to accomplish two things: (1) He notified the player concerned, her teammates, and their opponents, that he would accept this play. (2) He put the parents and other spectators, including you, on notice that he knew what he was doing and that this was his game, not yours.

However, the referee’s objective could easily have been accomplished by simply announcing, “A legal tackle, #25. Thanks for keeping it safe.” or “No problem with that tackle!” (or words to that effect). Calling it “great” and “beautiful” seems overly enthusiastic under the circumstances and slipped over into an almost gratuitous slap at the comment providers.

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