Every sport official in this world will tell you the same thing. Almost every single coach they’ve ever met thinks that they know every rule in the world, and that almost every single coach they’ve ever met… is sadly misguided about their own rules’ knowledge. A smart coach will take the time to learn the rules of his or her sport; the coaches that are wise enough to make their tactical decisions based upon the lesser-known rules of a contest… win.
The number one mistake that almost every coach makes is that they do not understand the differences between the levels. Let’s look at football for a moment. There is youth ball, high school football, collegiate sport, and then the NFL; and all of them have different rulebooks, and different points of emphasis. Those end zone celebrations that you see on Fox on Sunday, they are illegal at every other level, indeed, they are cause for a player’s ejection from youth ball. A coach that yells at an official that he saw the same thing on television… is a losing coach.
Buy a rulebook. I cannot emphasize this enough. Buy a rulebook and spend hours going through it. Read it from cover to cover, and then read it again. Contact your local officials organization and ask them questions. Ask whether they’ll allow you to visit one (or more) of their meetings and find out what they are talking about. Think about it for a moment, while you are spending hundreds of hours working with your players, they are spending the same amount of time learning the rules and the mechanics of their profession.
Every local sports league seems to have a list of in-house rules. Make sure you know what they are; memorize them. Indeed, this is the one area where a local coach may have an advantage on the official that is working his or her game. Talk to your official before your match, find out if he is aware of the local rules. If the official works a number of leagues, he may not be as comfortable with the local rules as you are. Don’t wait until a dispute before bringing something up; you won’t win that argument.
And always remember that the rules tend to change every year. The governing boards of the various sports are always refining their rules, making their games safer and bringing their game into the modern era. Don’t miss out on learning about these rules changes, and yes, this means that you’ll have to buy a rule book every single year that you coach. If you want to win, it’s a small price to pay.