A Quick Lesson in Listening to the Coach

James Ryan


This past weekend, marked my first ever attempt at reffing an Atom level football game (ages 9-10), and for the most part, I think I did okay, as at the very least, my priorities were definitely focused on player safety. At a developmental age, winning always takes a backseat to learning, and the on-field coaches were definitely all in agreement.

Also, as one of the referees, I had the distinct pleasure of hanging around when the coaches would huddle with all of their players. It was interesting to say the least, as I listened to the instructions given by the coaches, while they imparted their wisdom and teachings onto the young boys.

I particularly enjoyed one interaction between a head coach and his players.

“Alright boys, huddle up!” said Head Coach Kent Risko of the Niagara Storm.

I then watched as the majority of his players all rushed to Coach Risko’s side to get their instructions for the following play. Four players however, were slow to get up and began to walk over to the huddle with very little interest and no real sense of urgency. This obviously did not sit well with Coach Risko.

“No.” Coach Risko stated, as he pointed back at the bench. “You guys…sit back down.”

It was too late. The players were immediately denied the opportunity to listen to the coach’s instructions, which then automatically excluded them from being in on the next play. Shocked, the young boys all sat back down on the bench, no doubt wondering what had just happened. As an observer, I was very impressed by the actions of the coach, who in my opinion, was not intending to be mean to his players, but rather, to teach them a few very valuable lessons in the game of football.

First: You always listen to your coach.

Second: You never keep your teammates (or your coaches) waiting.

Third: When the clock is running, every second of the game is valuable, and all actions must be executed with a sincere sense of urgency. Many games have been won in the final seconds.

Four: If you expect to play, you can’t afford to be out of the huddle.

Perhaps Coach Risko had other lessons or intentions in mind that were beyond my own interpretation, but these were certainly the ones that made an impression on me, based on my own experiences as a coach.

The expression on each players’ face was priceless. Next time, I can all but guarantee that they’ll be listening when it’s required of them to do so.

Great job, coach! And thanks.


James Ryan
James Ryan

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