Sunday, May 27, 2007

More Experience = More Confidence

I got myself scheduled for one day of a local tournament. This particular assignor that I work with has been a little more conservative with my assignments. I often get line assignments from him. In fact, I get very few center assignments.
He called me for the tournament. I was assigned 4 short sided games in the morning. He also told me that he would like me to come by referee headquarters to "pick up the slack" for officials that might be injured or sick.
The thing about tournaments that makes them tough is the super-tight scheduling. This particular tournament allowed for 5 minutes between games and 5 minute half times. Since I was scheduled for short sided games in the morning, by myself, I knew it would be a real struggle to get food and water as required. Also, its a little stressful because you only have those 5 minutes to deal with the administrative part of the job. Since there are so many games scheduled, it is critical games start on time. A few delayed games, and you could have a field that is 40 minutes behind by the end of the day. I think I've probably stated this before, but one must be persistent with coaches to have them get their teams on the field when the match is supposed to start. I had an experienced referee tell me to just start my watch at the appointed time, whether the teams are on the field or not.
As I worked through my first four games, something occurred to me. I'm getting better at this! I feel more confident! The experience I've been getting has been paying off. I actually had a coach tell me I called a really good game...and his team had lost!
On a side note, I actually had a parent say something kind of nasty to me during the game. I should clarify, it was a U-8 game. Unbelievable! There are all kinds. Interestingly enough, one of the coaches walked over to the parents side of the field and made it clear the parents were not to say anything to me! Way to go coach! Also, the club representative for the parent with the mouth apologized to me after the game on behalf of his club. Classy. I have additional respect for that club.
Something occurred to me while I was working the small side games. I love being a referee for the little ones. I've had some opportunities to do some older kids games. Most of them go well, but some games are tough. The players can be difficult and the coaches and parents can be worse. For the most part, the little ones just want to have fun. They want to learn the game. They count on the referee to teach, as well as officiate. If the older games get you down, schedule yourself for a few small sided games.
I reported to referee headquarters as requested. I had a couple of cold drinks and spoke with my assignor for 10 minutes or so. A call came in from one of the tournament locations that a referee needed a replacement (It was very hot today, over 90 degrees). Off I went to the new location. I subbed in immediately for the ill official and completed that game. I did one more game with this crew as an assistant, and then they asked me to be the referee for the last game. Apparently, the referee in the center when I arrived had been in the center almost all day! I ended up doing a U-13 girls game. It was a great game and I think I did a real good job. I effectively dealt with a few nasty parents and called a very good game. OK, it wasn't the most challenging game ever, but the experience is paying off and I'm getting better with every game.
Next week, I'm scheduled to do a large, 2-day tournament in the area. I'm looking forward to it!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Courage with the Important Call

I didn't get much in the way of assignments this weekend. I had two AR assignments. One is on Saturday while the other is on Sunday. Saturday's game was a real nail-biter. The game ended 0-0, and it was well played. There was lots of physical play, emotion and some dissent that drew a caution from the center. Both of the games I did were U-16 boys. These games were definitely faster than I'm use to and I had to pick it up to keep up with play.
In today's game, with only about 1 minute left. I made what I thought was going to be a controversial call. The ball was played through the defense, about 10 feet inside the touch line. The keeper came out and followed the ball toward the goal line. A striker chased the ball as well. As the ball approached the goal line, the keeper turned away from the ball and put his shoulder into the chest of the striker, rather than shield the ball and have it go out of bounds. I put up my flag immediately, much to the dismay of the keeper's team. The center came over and asked me what I saw. I explained it to him by merely presenting the facts. He confirmed the direct kick without question.
I think it's important to make the tough calls, regardless of the screaming and yelling that might result. You make the calls based on what you see. By the way, the strikers team failed to take advantage of the close-in free kick.
The 2nd game of the weekend, which was also a U-16 boys game, had some controversy in it. During our pre-game inspection, we noticed one of the goals had a net that was not tied down at the bottom along one side. That came back to bite us later. About 30 minutes into the 1st half, the center signaled for a penalty kick. I immediately moved to the prescribed position on the goal line. The center set up the kick, then positioned himself right in front of me on the goal line! The kick was taken. It was a low shot, very close to the post, opposite our positions. The center called for a goal kick, apparently ruling the ball went wide of the net. The shooting team screamed that it was clearly a goal and the ball had merely gone through the hole in the net. The center asked me what I saw. All I could tell him was it did not look like a goal to me, but I was screened from seeing the posts. I could only tell him that I did not see the net move at all. I think this is why following the contents of the "Guidelines and Procedures" manual is so critical. Proper positioning is so important and is specified in the document for a reason.
As I get more games, I've come to notice something important. Many referees make things up as they go. I'm not sure if this results from misinformation, ignorance of changes in the law, or some other reason. I hear more experienced referees say things that I absolutely know to not be true. Be wary of this if you are a new referee. It's very easy to be mislead.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Safety Checks are Critical

10 year old killed by goal post

All of you check the field for safety problems before every game, right? Don't let something like this happen at one of your games. At one time or another, we have all neglected to check for goal anchors. Perhaps there is a game going on before yours, so you assume the referee on the field checked the goals. Maybe your previous game ran late and you're arriving at the field just before game time. Always check the goals before a game, no matter the circumstances. We are taught this in our certification classes. It's drilled into us. Let's make sure we are going each and every game.

Monday, May 7, 2007

On the Hot Seat

This was a weekend for gaining experience, for sure. Through a different assignor, I was put on a field for 3 games with 2 other officials. This was the kind of weekend I wanted for some time. It is a chance to work with others AND to have several games in a row in order to hone my skills. We had a U-14 state cup match, and U-10 and U-12 league games. The night before, my thoughts were the two more experienced (my assumption) guys would want the U-14 and U-12 games and I would get the U-10s. Of course, I'm pretty new so I was OK with that idea and had prepared myself with this thought in mind.
As is my usual practice, I arrived at the field 30 minutes in advance of game time. The other officials arrived around the same time and we made our way to the field. We start discussing our games for the day. They both decide I should do the first game, which is the U-14 state cup game! I would later think they must have know what I was getting into.
The state cup match started and all went well through the 1st half. The game was physical so there were some fouls, including a few that approached being "reckless." I felt we called a decent 1st half by not allowing too much to go without a whistle, but still letting the game be played. There was one problematic player that I had a chat with. He would get a caution later in the game.
The 2nd half started out and was heated right off. The game was getting hot and I started to clamp down a little on the physical play. In hindsight, I probably could have clamped down even harder.
I've read that, in a post-game analysis, you can usually point to one incident in a game that caused things to get difficult. In this instance, it was an offside call wanted by the parents and coaches. The blue team played a ball from about 40 yards out up the right side of the field. I was just behind and to the left of the blue player with the ball and a white defender. When the blue player hit the ball forward, I kept my eyes on the 2 players for a second to make sure there were no fouls after the ball left. The pass went onto the foot of a blue forward and, simultaneously, I could hear the parental screams for an "offsides" call. I glanced at my AR and confirmed he had his flag down as blue put the ball into the net. Having had my eye on the players closer to mid field, I did not see any offside infraction and did not see any reason to disallow the goal. There was quite a bit of complaining coming from a particular group on the sidelines. Again, in my mind's analysis, I should have taken action right then to assert my authority.
A few minutes later, a white defender obviously pushed a blue striker in the penalty area. Great! My first penalty kick. When I pointed to the spot, that same troublesome group really got loud. At this point, before the kick, I walked to within about 20 yards of the sideline and told the parents I had enough and they were to be silent. I felt I need to do this in order to protect my AR, who was taken the brunt of the complaining. The penalty kick was taken and missed. Before the resulting goal kick, I walked to the white team's bench and asked the coach to get his parents under control. Unbelievably, he told me they were my problem and I should do whatever I needed to do!
We played the last 10 minutes or so of the 2nd half tied, 1-1. This match need a winner, so there was the possibility of extra time and kicks from the penalty mark. I found myself hoping for another goal as I really didn't want to get into any of the tie breaking procedures. Fortunately, white scored with about 4 minutes left and then game ended 2-1.
There are a few things I took away from this particular match. Deal with obnoxious parents early, and sternly. One needs to make it clear that things will escalate to an empty sideline quickly. It seems that if you don't deal with the one or two problem parents, you end up dealing with a mob mentality as others start to chime in with their opinion. It also seems to affect the players. The complaining on the field escalates along with the parental complaining. Also, for every game you officiate, know the responsibility of the coaching staff as it relates to their parents. Some leagues make the coaches responsible for the parents behavior and have specific actions the referee can take to deal with the problem.
The good news for the day was the next 2 matches, for which I was an AR, went rather well. We had the U-10 game after the U-14's. That was a little bit of stress relief. The U-12 game came off without a hitch as well. I worked with 2 good guys, and I learned valuable lessons in match control.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Small Breakthrough

This past weekend, I only had one game scheduled. That's a little frustrating, as my learning curve has been slower than expected. I guess I can't complain too much though. My game this weekend was a U-18 state cup match.
The breakthrough in the title refers to my confidence level for this game. I was an AR, but I somehow felt like I actually knew what I was doing. My signals to the center referee were confident. I learned to pause for a second before signaling. All in all, I felt I did really well. This could be a result of lessons learned from my other games, my study of refereeing through books and websites, or, most probably, a combination of those things.
Every time I have a game, there is a lesson to learn. This game was no different. In this case, the lesson related to flagging offside infractions. I had a situation where an attacker, on the far side of the field, was in an offside position by several yards. Her teammate played a ball through the defense, straight toward the goalkeeper. My reaction was to wait to see what happens before putting up the flag. The offside positioned player had not yet touched the ball, and the ball was playable by the goalkeeper. The striker did get to the ball and I immediately flagged the infraction. The center referee spoke to me later and asked that I flag offside earlier. His take was as soon as the striker made a play for the ball, the stroke became involved in active play and the flag should be raised. I asked my instructor and he agreed. He did say that, in the event another striker, coming from an onside position, was making a play for the ball, the correct action is to hold the flag to see who gets to the ball first.