Centennial coach battles rise of 'killer ball' Martin says officials need to crack down on increase in physical play

September 30, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Centennial soccer coach Ron Martin calls it "killer ball."

He paints a picture just short of mayhem that he says some soccer officials are doing little to curb.

And he speculates that perhaps the only way things will change is if parents start suing the officials.

"So far in six games this season I've carried off 15 players, and no calls were made," said Martin, The Sun's Howard County Coach of the Year last season. "I talked to one ref at halftime and was told he didn't appreciate me talking to him. When are you supposed to?"

Martin was especially upset last Saturday at the J. M. Bennett Tournament in Salisbury, where he split a pair of games with Bennett and Parkside. He said he had to carry eight of his players off the field without a penalty called on any of the injuries.

"On every collision they said it was a 50-50, and we can't call anything," Martin said.

He described Bennett, a Class 3A school that plays in the Bayside Conference, as big, aggressive and the fastest team Centennial will face all season.

"They got 12 yellow cards, including one double yellow. We got no yellows. And I still didn't think they called much. They couldn't go 30 seconds without fouling."

Bennett won the game, 2-1, on a penalty kick and a corner kick.

Centennial then beat Parkside, 2-1, despite playing down a man for three-quarters of the game.

"Parkside had a breakaway at the 40, and three of our guys caught him at the 25, and all four guys went for the ball and fell down. Our guy wound up with a red card," said Martin.

The win boosted Centennial's record to 4-1-1.

Martin, whose team faces Oakland Mills, another physical-style team on Friday, said he has four or five players soaking in buckets of ice after every game.

"It's ridiculous. What are we trying to do, ruin careers? Years from now these kids will look back and wonder why their knees are shot. The refs need to get control early and establish a tempo."

Martin is not alone in thinking the game has changed.

Defending Class 3A state champion Wilde Lake coach Dave Nesbitt said: "I think more teams are trying to be more physical. But so far the refs have done a pretty good job."

Jerry Grimes is a referee and assigns referees for the Metro Washington Soccer Referees Association that officiates Howard County home games. He doesn't think the game has suddenly become more violent.

"A lot of people feel that soccer is a non-contact sport. Soccer is a physical game. Shoulder-to-shoulder contact near the ball without excessive force is legal," Grimes said. "On tackles from behind, if you hit the ball first without making contact, and then the player trips over your foot, that's legal."

He says officials have to use their judgment. "If someone goes for a slide tackle and their foot is up by someone's knee, then I call a foul. If it's down by the ball, I don't. Soccer is not an easy game to officiate."

Grimes doesn't think slide tackling has been a special problem this season. "I'm seeing less of slide tackles, but more of shirt-tugging. They tend to imitate what goes on in the World Cup."

Grimes thinks slide tackles are especially dangerous because a lot of players don't know how to make them. Martin would like to see slide tackles banned, but knows that will never happen.

"It looks like the only way things will ever get done is if parents start suing refs. We need to remember these are high school kids. They do have to go to school tomorrow. They aren't all bouncing back."

Grimes' association is one of 11 statewide, but the largest, with more than 100 high school officials.

"Officials are there to control the game. Some do it by talking to the players. Some do it with cards," Grimes said. "It's easier to officiate if you played the game. Some of our officials never played."

Howard County Coordinator of Athletics, Don Disney, said that Howard County is the only one that rates the quality of its officials.

"We dismissed 10 officials last season," Disney said. "We also issued eight letters of commendation, and those officials will be assigned to our playoff games."

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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