Referee Coin Toss (Part 2): A Review & My Way

Continued from previous post, Referee Coin Toss: A Case Study

Having taken a close look at Jonas Eriksson’s coin toss and a glimpse at Howard Webb’s, I would like to summarise the findings as well as dictate any differences I do in my own coin tosses.

  • Avoid lecturing: Coaches don’t like to be lectured. Players don’t like to be lectured. If you would like to make a point, make it brief and keep the conversation short. There is only so much captains will absorb.
  • First impressions: Your body language, speaking style and professionalism speaks for itself at the coin toss when the captains first meet you. Players test what the referee will allow during the game and their first impression will certainly dictate how far they may test you in the first 10-15 minutes of play. Do it right!
  • Use clear body language: The build-up to any match can be nerve-wracking for captains, players and the referee. The coin toss is a great time to break the ice and get a smile from everyone. Captains of a match will also relax and respect you if you are able to convey messages effectively with good body language so that they never have to think twice or have to snap out of a daze after you say something.
  • Notes to take: Useful information to know before/after the coin toss includes the
    • Home/Away side. A quick glance at the game sheet can resolve this detail and get you set on your way to an organised coin toss.
    • Jersey colours that both teams are wearing. This makes it easy to identify which team is the Home and Away team and will be calling the side for the coin toss, if relevant to your scenario.
    • Captain’s names and jersey numbers. This no doubt can prove useful if you need to call upon their leadership during a tense time in the game to remind their players to behave appropriately. A detail that one may regret not noting sometime or the other.
    • Decision of the coin toss and the team that will be kicking off. Surprisingly forgotten by many that could cause a muddle up when teams are asking who is supposed to kick-off to start the second half.
  • Professionalism: Take the initiative with the previous mechanics to
    • reduce the tension by having captains shake hands without verbal instruction.
    • prevent criss-crossing handshakes by stepping up to complete it first (if you are the referee) to eliminate the man in the middle blocking the way or being patient with the captain trying to shake your hand over the other.

My Coin Toss

With these interesting findings, I’ll relate how I execute my coin toss.

Summoning Captains & Introductions

A couple of short blasts of the whistle accompanied by a request of “Captains, please”. It’s important to be courteous because being a referee isn’t about yelling and being mad. It’s about being firm and polite. When the captains have arrived and I have used my body language to direct the handshakes and everyone is settled, I start the conversation by quickly mentioning my first name and stating that I am going to be the referee for the game (obvious; I know!). I tell the captains “I have only one message”. I pause. They look at me expecting something. “Play safe and have fun”. They let a wry smile escape. I conclude by letting them know that we are going to do the coin toss while I slip my flip coin out of my wristband on my left arm.

The Coin

My coin usually gets a few “Oooohs” from youth players and raised eyebrows from senior players wondering whether it is made of solid gold. Good to keep them guessing and engaged. Some of them even ask me and I reply by telling them that it is worth less than a loonie (CAD 1.00). It costs a little more than that in actual.

I clearly display both sides to the captains and explain that the ball is heads and the field is tails. They know now that it is a coin with two distinguishable sides. “Perhaps this ref is fair?” is hopefully what’s going through their minds subconsciously!

This coin also let’s me do a different kind of toss where I simply appoint the outcome to a captain and do the toss. The result of the toss would go to the relevant captain and the opposite outcome to the opposing captain. Neat, huh!

The Toss

I inform, the appropriate captain that they represent the home team and indicate the away team captain and let him know that he has choice in the coin toss. I give them a few seconds to comprehend and deftly toss the coin. Less than a second later, I catch it in my right palm and quickly flip/slap it onto the back of my left hand. I clearly show both the result to both captains by holding it out to both of them. I quickly attempt to conclude by asking the winner of the toss to select the side of their choice for the first half, which inevitably remains where they are. I inform the opposing captain that they will be kicking off first and wish both captains luck before shaking their hands. Almost a race to do so before my ARs start the handshakes so I can step out of the way and let the proceedings go smoothly (Eriksson style).

Now there is many ways to do the toss:

  • Flip and catch the coin in open palm
  • Flip and catch the coin in palm and flip onto other hand (my way)
  • Flip and let it fall to the ground

They all have their merits and drawbacks but the last can definitely have no question of possible bias since the referee doesn’t interfere with the result after the toss.

Keeping the Coin Safe

Following this, the captains return to their teams as the clock ticks ever closer to kick-off. One of the most important tips now is where to keep your coin.

I used to keep it in my jersey left breast pocket but a few games after doing that, I found that it had disappeared. No doubt it had fallen out while running despite the depth of the pocket.

The second place I tried was my shorts front left pocket and those adidas World Cup 2010 referee shorts are quite deep. So much so that it could probably fit an iPad. Wait. Maybe that’s why… They were probably preparing for video replays so that referees could whip out an iPad to see if a goal was scored and to watch fouls again in slow motion. Not bad. adidas thinks of it all. It took quite a long time before I figured out that this place wasn’t foolproof either and I continued to ponder.

I was aware of another option, handing my coin to an AR whose potential area of losing the coin was limited to the touchline where he/she operates. This presented other problems such as it could be lost in the grass, I might forget to ask for it back etc.

And then… I found it. I can’t even remember how. I must have seen it somewhere and it caught on instantly because now it’s almost common sense to me. My wristband. Right under it. My wristband fits snugly on my left forearm so why not slip my coin underneath it. I tried it and it didn’t budge. Eureka! I, no doubt, recommend using a wristband because it’s handy to get the sweat of your face after those difficult decisions and to keep your flip coin safe!

Referee Crew Final Pre-Game Words

My final duty is the final words to my referee crew before the game gets under way and the net checks happen. This varies but I always love getting my crew excited and this varies between a three-way handshake, a team cheer (don’t try this on the field) or regular handshakes.

Another interesting way that requires a crew that is close and has worked together in the past is a method I saw Peter Fröjdfeldt use in Euro 2008. I’m sure it would be a lot of fun.

Three-way Handshake

Three-way Handshake

The three-way handshake always gets a laugh because the first time I try it with a crew, everyone is usually confused and find it awkward. Quite simply put, every referee holds their hands like the photo illustrates so that everyone is locked in a sideway handshake. A quick pump and a laugh usually follows. I’m sure your ARs will remember you after this. Mine do!

3 comments on “Referee Coin Toss (Part 2): A Review & My Way

  1. […] Continued in next post, Referee Coin Toss Part 2: A Review & My Way […]

  2. Dan Mergens says:

    I appreciate the post; always looking to fine-tune my game. I keep my coin behind my badge. Just have to be careful that the velcro on the badge is up to the task.

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