DIANE MAKAR MURPHY A primer for next year's soccer parents

The last header is in the air (or has it already landed?). Soccer season is almost over. I have loved every minute of it, watching Boardman's JV go undefeated for much of the season, then drop just two games. I've enjoyed being a Soccer Booster, huddled like the faithful in rain, freezing wind, or shine, not caring that soccer is an also-ran in Ohio high school sports.
And yet, like so many stand-weary parents, I know precious little more about what the heck the refs were doing all season than I did in August. Soccer is not exactly like football, which any self-respecting kid learned in his or her own back yard. It doesn't exactly make sense -- what with alleys you more or less remain in while running and rules about where you can be when the ball is launched.
I never seem to fathom how rough is too rough. I don't get when pushing and shoving and tackling results in a yellow or red penalty card, or simply a bruised rib and a muddy uniform. And soccer refs don't use nifty hand gestures that make their calls clear. Well, I mean, they do, but I can't seem to understand them.
Just when I think I do get it -- for example, what off sides is -- a new definition seemingly appears. When I finally understand how much pushing, shoving, tripping and tackling is too much, a new ref demonstrates I'm wrong. Could it be the refs, either by will or incompetence, bend the rules and regulations? Nawww! It's just a lack of information on the part of parents.
In fact, one ref stated in no uncertain terms, "I hate parents, especially those of JV players. They have no idea what is going on."
Some preparation: Well, I've decided, as a public service, to prepare a road map for next year's parents, so they won't be so darn stupid and annoying to the referees. I give it to you NOW, however, while the sting of your ignorance is still fresh off the field.
UOff sides -- Off sides is wherever your son or daughter is when he or she gets a pass and a clear shot at the goal. Particularly if your team is losing.
UYellow card -- A yellow card is what one of your team's players gets when he or she diligently goes after the ball, but the referee makes an egregious error in judgment.
UYellow card -- A yellow card is what the opponents deserve whenever they sneak in an elbow, a knee, a trip, or an out-and-out shove, while the referee is taking a short, but certainly well deserved, nap.
UThrow-in -- What the other team gets when one of its players hits the ball out, but all of her teammates point at YOUR daughter. The ref, a profound believer in democracy and majority rule, does the patriotic thing, and gives the ball to the most demonstrative group.
UMisconduct -- Jumping, kicking, charging or striking an opponent. What the other team engages in whenever the ref isn't looking. What your team is forced to do because the other team is already doing it.
UIndirect free kick -- What you get as a result of several different possible actions. For example, you are awarded an indirect free kick if the opponent grabs your shirt (and the ref isn't worried about slowing down the game by calling it), if you prevent the goalie from releasing the ball (and the ref isn't worried about slowing down the game by calling it), or if the goalie takes more than four steps while holding the ball (and the ref ... well, you know).
UPenalty kick -- An opponent's free kick, 12 feet from the goal defended only by the goalie, awarded whenever your team is up by one and time is running out.
USir -- The polite way to demonstrate to the referee that you are displeased with his call, as in, "Get some glasses, you big jerk, sir."

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