Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Uniforms for Referees

The green jersey has been released! Most of you know by now that the new jersey was featured at this past weekends MLS final. For those of you that have not seen it, I've included a picture.
Not that anyone has asked for it, but I feel obliged to share my feelings. I'm disappointed. First, I was kind of hoping the color would be a little more like a forest green. This green is a little too bright for me. Secondly, I don't see any reason to change the actual design of the uniform. Why not leave the stripes alone? What's done is done and we have to live with it. The first question I had in my mind was "when do I have to invest in new uniforms?" It turns out that does not have to happen anytime soon. A recent memo from the USSF says:
In the future, OSI will only sell the new uniforms, but the old striping pattern is still USSF-approved and acceptable to wear during games. In youth and adult amateur games, it is also acceptable for the crew to wear a combination of new and old uniforms. Referees are encouraged to purchase the new uniform when replacing their old version as the updated stripe pattern will be grandfathered into becoming the official referee uniforms of U.S. Soccer.

That seems reasonable. My yellow uniform is the OSI version, but my alternatives came from Score Sports. They are much cheaper and seem to look nice and wear well. As I replace (upgrade) them, I'll be ordering the new uniforms.
Did you notice the new socks? Yes, there is a new sock to go with the new uniform. The stripes have been moved down to about mid-shin. I guess I don't mind the new socks as much as the redesigned uniform. On the other hand, I don't have nearly as much money invested in socks! The above mentioned memo says the 3-stripe socks are acceptable as well as the newer designs.
I've had my say. What do you think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

First Fall Tournament

This past weekend was spent at a large, highly competitive tournament in my area. I did 11 games in 2 days ranging from U-11 to U-15. It was a good tournament, with some great soccer played.
Well, I guess it was bound to happen. I had my first dismissal today. It was a coach, and there is no doubt in my mind that he deserved it. He started with me on a perceived bad call. I gave him a "that's enough coach." Later, I put the opponent on the penalty mark for an ugly trip in the penalty area. The defender's body actually slid into the legs of the attacker with the ball. It was a pretty easy call. After dealing with the goalkeeper losing her cool over the cool, I had to deal with the coach. He earned a place in my book on this one. 2 minutes later, he completely lost it on a throw in call. That was it. I pointed to the parking lot.
In my mind, I was trying to figure out why I felt like I was having some problems early on with this game. One team seemed content to play the game and was quite calm. The other team seemed upset with every call I made. There was noticeable decent from this team. I found out later, the team giving me problems was in second place in the tournament. The other team was in first. I wish I had known that going in.
Before the first half was over, I ended up issuing 2 more cards. The first was for a cheap elbow thrown as two players were fighting for the ball at the touch line. Naturally, it was right in front of the troublesome team's bench. Apparently, they felt it to be an unfair call. The 2nd was for a Failure to Respect Required distance on a free kick. The player stood right at the ball after the opponent put the ball down. I felt this to be a match-control type of card. I wanted to make sure they were getting the message that I was having none of the nonsense. At U-15, they should know they must give up the 10 yards right away.
The thing that surprised me is that both of the players cautioned in the first half engaged in pretty serious dissent in the 2nd half, even after me reminding them they were already under a caution. I could have easily been justified in sending both of them off. A few of the outbursts were purely emotional and I managed to get through them without too much of a problem.
This was a tough game, but as always, I learned a few things. First, you must expect the unexpected. I went into this game thinking it would be the same as all of the other games. I was sadly mistaken and would have been better prepared if I had known the importance of the game to the teams. In tournaments, we often get caught up in getting through the games on time because the tournament administrators do not want games to run late. This is understandable, but one thing you don't want to skimp on is being sure you have all the cards necessary if misconduct should arise. In particular, be sure you have a card for each of the coaches on the sideline. In this case, I did, but I had not checked before the start of the game.
Now that I've done a few tournaments and a fair share of league games, I have come to a realization. In general, player and coach behavior is better in league games than tournament games. Perhaps it is the perception that the repercussions of poor behavior in a tournament are less than a league game.
I had my first real experience with gamesmanship. Perhaps I've experienced it before and just didn't notice. We had the same team in 3 of our games at this tournament. The coach of this team had 2 interesting tactics she used to try and get a little advantage for her team. First, every time there was a close ball in/out of play call on the touch line, she would noticeably throw her arm up in favor of her team and shout "blue ball!" I don't think it influenced any of us much, but it was distracting for sure. I had a senior referee point this out to me a while ago as being "irresponsible behavior." His thought was it undermines the referees authority, because if you call the throw-in in favor of this team, people think you are influenced by this practice. If you don't, you might be perceived as favoring the other team because of the gamesmanship. This practice needs to be dealt with.
The more serious practice of this coach took me by surprise. There were a few times the ball went out of play near this team's bench. The coach would toss the ball to one of her players that was positioned much further down the touch line than where the ball went out! At first, I thought maybe she was just confused, but she did it several times. Be aware of these subtle forms of cheating.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Give the Young Guys a Chance

Often times, I find myself working games with a crew that has at least 1 member under the age of 18. My son is now a grade 8 referee, and he works games with me on a regular basis. Also, there are quite a few young guys working for my league assignor. Our assignor does not specify which team members are to be the referee for games. He leaves that up to the crew to decide on game day, with the exception of critical games, like state cup. We get a list of games and a list of referees that will be there.
So when we arrive at our first game, I often suggest we flip coins, or pick coins from a pile to determine who will do what games. I have heard senior referees suggest it is unwise to have a younger referee do a game where the players are less than 2 years younger. So, for example, we might have a 14 year old referee do a U-11 game, but U-12 or above is probably a bad idea. I tend to agree with this idea as it might be hard for the younger referee to garner the respect from the players required for effective match control. Other than the age difference, however, I cannot think of other reasons why I, as an adult referee, would try to restrict a younger referee from getting a particular game.
Lately, I've noticed some referees take advantage of younger referees on their crew. They show up, see they are with 2 young officials, and immediately take charge. I suppose this could be a good thing sometimes, but it seems to me that adult referees have an obligation to bring along younger referees and help them get the experience they need to become confident as game officials. It is unfair for an adult to take the center position for all of the days games just by virtue of being the only adult referee present. I'd venture to say most of us would not try to do that with another adult referee, so why would we do that when we are assigned with younger referees?
The next time you are assigned with a minor, consider their need for experience as well as your own. You can learn as much about the game assisting a young referee as you can being in the center. It's only fair, and as referees, we should be all about being fair!