As a somewhat seasoned referee for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Illinois, I have witnessed and somewhat have now come to terms with high school soccer rules slowly trickling down and intruding onto the FIFA Laws of the Game, ostensibly I suppose, to make the game most appropriate for high school student athletes as the NFHS sees it. These rules include, among others, rules about specific hand gestures to signal the reasoning for fouls called, the stopping of the clock for injuries, the issuing of yellow card to the coach for an illegally dressed player, the open book testing for referees and the fact that there is even no fitness test for high school officials. Oh and, yes, the issuing of cards to coaches is my personal “favorite.” I think a good enough picture has been painted. Needlessly to say, I’ve had a long journey of coming to terms with what passes for soccer officiating in a high school game setting.
At the beginning of this Spring season, I received a message from one of my high school game assignors, which came directly from his liaison between his superior and the NFHS, about yet another proposed rule for NFHS games. Although it is not yet a rule, the latest piece of advice to high school referees in my area apparently is as follows: “Whether you are doing a 2-man or 3-man system, DON’T STICK AROUND ON THE FIELD AFTER THE GAME TO WITNESS THE HAND SHAKING. ALL officials should walk off the field together IMMEDIATELY after the match. AD’s and coaches don’t want you around afterwards.”
I’ve seen a number of baffling rules, some of which I listed above, but with this one I wasn’t even sure whether it was a joke or something I should take seriously. So, it only took me a minute after reading this recommendation to reach out to my high school assignor. I asked him for an explanation and whether this recommendation needs to be taken seriously. His response: “Let me put you in touch with my soccer rule book guru but this is how I have been conducting my post-match routine for high school basketball for years. I guess the soccer referees want to model themselves after basketball referees.”
Perhaps not so surprisingly, the soccer rule book guru (or liaison) supported this recommendation and asked that I uphold it for my high school matches. I’ve had enough!
My fellow referees, let me assure you that I will demand that my entire crew stay for the entire post-match handshake for every high school match. Let me know what you think about this rule and share your stories about other baffling soccer rules passed by NFHS.