Friday, August 24, 2007

Tournament Schedules: What has been your experience?

I really want your feedback on this post. How are tournaments done where you live?
I asked to be assigned to a tournament in my area, scheduled for this coming weekend. I received word that I would be working both Saturday and Sunday. Some assignors will ask what days you want to work, others won't. After doing a 2-day tournament in the Spring, I would have liked to avoid the back-to-back days. 2 days in a row is just brutal. Naturally, the forecast for this weekend is HOT!
As is typical, I'll be with a 4-person crew. We will work a single field, all day. Each person will end up doing 6 or 7 games, per day. Usually, the crew members will rotate through being referee and assistant referee. You end up getting every 4th game off to rest or eat and drink. Sometimes, you'll have a member of the crew that does not want to be the referee, so you might end up changing the rotation somewhat.
In examining the schedule, I've also noted the tight scheduling of our field. We have 1 hour slots for each game. Reading the rules, I find that the games are to be 60 minutes. You'll immediately note this allows no time for half-time or the switching of teams between games. We are guaranteed, no matter how we manage our field, to be seriously behind by the afternoon.
All of this leaves me wondering what tournaments are like in other parts of the world. Is everyone working this many games on a tournament weekend? What about game scheduling? Do you normally have enough time for the game or are all tournaments this hectic? Add your comments to this post and let us know! Thanks.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Preparing for the Coming Season

Getting Assigned
Well, let me start with the obvious. You need to get games. As I write this, the Fall season will be starting in about 3 or 4 weeks. Of course, there are always tournaments before the season starts, so plan now what kind of games you want and get your name in with the appropriate assignor. Don't be afraid to send a quick email to a tournament organizer and get your name on their list. As I've said in other articles, you have to get your name on the assignors lists before you can expect to get games.
Mental Preparation
Being pretty new, I'm still not completely comfortable with making decisions on the field quickly, without hesitation. My concern is that some obscure, bizarre play will happen and I won't know exactly that to do. So, coming off of the summer break, I've been reviewing the various materials I keep on my laptop. First thing I do is re-read the Laws of the Game. The 2007 version is posted on the FIFA site. I've downloaded and reviewed it. It's really worthwhile to review the "Additional Instructions" portion of the Laws of the Game as well. It gets you thinking about the game.
Physical Preparation
If you read my posts often, you are aware I take the referee thing pretty seriously. I want to do the best job I can. Hey, we're getting paid for this! Also, the players prepared all week for the game so I should be prepared as well. In my mind, one of the most important things one can do to become a better referee is have good conditioning in order to keep up with play. I may not make perfect calls, but I don't want anyone to be able to say I'm a "center circle official" or I'm making calls while 40 yards from the play.
So how do I prepare? I run...often. That's all I can say. I was asked a few times last season how I stay in shape and keep my weight down. I even had one referee compliment my conditioning. In my mind, there isn't a substitute for going out and running on a regular basis. During a given week, I'll probably run about 4 or 5 times. Each run is between 2 and 3 miles. Every other week, I try to get in a long run of about 5 miles. My pace varies too. For the 3 mile runs, I usually go at about 8 1/2 minute miles. The longer runs are done at about 9 1/2 minute miles. Every so often, I throw in some speed work. I head to the local high school track. The workout starts with a 1 mile warm-up (4 laps on a standard track). After the warm up, I'll do some sprints. I usually do 200 meters off/200 meters on. That's 1/2 a lap at about a 7 minute mile pace and 1/2 a lap at about a 9 minute mile pace. Typically, I'll do 4 laps this way. After the sprints, I'll do another 2-4 laps at a slow pace to cool down.
I've seen plenty of referees that keep up with play and don't do the running that I do. I've also seen plenty of referees that really are not keeping up with play. It seems to me they consistently have more problems with selling their calls as the players and coaches notice.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reflecting on My First Season

Having completed my first season, I've started to think about many of the things I've observed and learned. After 39 games, I've learned quite a lot. My skills have improved significantly and I'm feeling more confident in my ability. I've started to observe various behaviors by others involved in the sport, and that has contributed to my successful season. This entry contains a summary of my thoughts and observations that didn't fit neatly into any other post.
Parents routinely embarrass themselves during games. It really is amazing to me that seemingly sane, educated people routinely make themselves look like fools during a youth sporting event. Most of the time, these parents really have no knowledge of the game and are merely venting emotion and frustration. Other times, I believe these people have some level of an abusive or controlling personality. I believe, for the most part, parents can be controlled by 2 techniques. Depending on the situation, a stern look/word toward the parent will often work to eliminate or at least control the situation. If that doesn't work, remember, it is the coaches responsibility to control their parents. If there is no cooperation in this matter, the match can be terminated.
I find myself wondering why coaches seem to think its a good idea to yell at, and otherwise abuse, soccer officials. Can they possibly think they have some influence over our decisions? My advice for dealing with unhappy coaches is to set the limits early in the match. The minute they cross your limits for irresponsible behavior, they need to receive a stern talking to and perhaps a caution. Do not let coaches abuse you. That behavior is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
Some skills improve with your game count. Thinking back to my first few games, my biggest problem seemed to be signaling the correct direction for a restart! It was a struggle to remember which team was attacking in which direction. I remember being horrified at how slow my decision making ability felt. Now, I don't really worry about those things. They went away pretty quickly.
Evaluate each piece of advice you are offered by more experienced referees. Some of this advice is either not wise, or just plain wrong. There seems to be quite a few myths out there that are often propagated by officials. Realize that a more experienced referee is not correct by virtue of them having more experience. There are some very knowledgeable referees out there. Seek them out. Befriend them. Learn from them.
Think about and ensure your mechanics, especially as an assistant referee, are correct. Maybe I'm too conservative, but there was more than once this season that I noticed poor mechanics from an assistant and it bothered me. At first, I thought it was limited to younger referees, but I realized the problem comes from elsewhere. Assistant referee mechanics are not reinforced through the certification process. In fact, there is little in the US Soccer teaching materials that demonstrates assistant referee mechanics. Take a look at your "Guidelines and Procedures" manual and brush up on those skills. Good mechanics make selling your decisions easier and it makes the referee team look far more professional
On a positive note, it seems there is at least one positive interaction with a game participant for every negative one. We often emphasize the negative when we talk about being a youth soccer referee, but there are many opportunities to have good interactions as well. Try saying hello to a few of the players while they are warming up. Often, you'll find some very nice young men and women on the field!
There are some things I'd personally like to improve. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Get better at positioning so I'm not interfering with play - there were times this past season, especially with the older players, where I felt like I was getting in the way once in a while. I need to work on this.
  • Be more careful about watching the Assistant Referees - There were a couple of times I missed offside flags. Concentrating on your assistants is a must.
  • Work toward getting more center assignments so I can think about upgrading - In looking up the upgrade requirements to go to grade 7, one has to work 75 games as a referee and 25 games as an assistant referee. At the rate I'm going, it will take an awful long time to get to 75. I need to speak with my assignor about this and figure out how to best make that happen.