Saturday, March 22, 2008

Big Weekend at a College Showcase

I had a big weekend working a day at a boy's college showcase. There were two great things about it. First, I managed to get in 7 U-17 boys games! Second, my good friend, who was recently certified, got to do his first tournament and we worked together.
For a few months, I've really felt like I was ready to move up the age groups a little bit. I haven't had much in the way of the older games, so I was looking forward to getting a few assignments. I put in my availability for this college showcase and I was selected. We had an entire day of U-17 boys scheduled! Typically, I'll end up doing 6 games of an 8 or 9 game schedule. We work a crew of 4, so you have a couple of games off. Well, this morning, one of our crew members was late so I wound up with 7 games for the day with 2 middles. Nice. I really felt like I did a good job today so it was pretty satisfying, although I am totally exhausted!
As a new referee, I think you have to understand how to choose your sources of performance feedback. In other endeavors, you can sort of trust that the feedback you are getting has at least a hint of truth in it. I'm not convinced that's the case with soccer. For the most part, we had good teams with good coaches and parents today. But some of the teams were...well...lacking in some of these categories. As a referee, you need to be able to filter out some of this negative feedback. Realize that coaches and parents, for the most part, are not knowledgeable about the Laws of the Game and are certainly not going to give an unbiased opinion about your performance. You are much better off if you seek feedback from colleagues you know to be trustworthy and knowledgeable. If you are able to realize this early, you have a better chance of sticking with refereeing. At the half of most games, I'll meet with my ARs at mid-field. Typically, there isn't much time, especially if you want to try and get some food and drink. I've developed the habit of immediately asking "How are we doing in this game?" Get that feedback to make sure your game situation is what you think it is.
My recent re-reading of the "Advice to the Referee" came in handy this weekend. I was an Assistant Referee on the coaches side of the field. We had a free kick. The team chose to take the kick quickly, hitting an opposing player in the back, as he was retreating, about 5 yards away. The coach was immediately screaming for a caution and a retake. I pointed out to him that the player was retreating. Those of you that have read it know that "Advice" tells us (section 13.3) that in this situation, the kicking team cannot claim infringement of the required distance because they chose to take the kick with the player that close. This seem to satisfy and calm the coach, although I'm sure he looked it up when he got home!
If you read my earliest posts, you'll take note my first few games were U-9 and U-10 girls. I worked those games on my own, without the benefit of knowledgeable ARs. Recently, I talked my good friend into getting certified. He is in excellent condition and knows the game well as he played as an adult. The last few weeks, we've been putting in availability together for league games, but he hadn't been assigned. I guess there weren't any games available that the league assignor felt appropriate. We put in our availability for this college showcase. Honestly,
I never thought he'd get called. Even if he did, I was sure "Lines only" would be next to his name on our assignment sheet. Well, he got called AND he was assigned 2 middles! This is not the way I would have wanted to start my referee career. Fortunately, he came into the day with the right attitude. He was like a sponge the first couple of games, watching his colleagues and obviously making mental notes. When his time came, he did reasonably well, considering his experience level (zero!) His first game in the middle can be described as awkward. It wasn't bad, just awkward.
Fortunately, he had relatively easy teams in that there didn't seem to be any trouble makers or particularly aggressive play. By the end of the half, he had improved some. We spoke with him at the half and made some corrections. His second half was better. Later in the day, he had his 2nd middle. Surprisingly, he made a huge improvement. I thought he looked like he had 10 or 20 games under his belt. It's nice to see a guy start off well, knowing he's going to end up being a solid official.
So there you have it. Another nice weekend running the field and learning how to be a better referee. I got some experience with the older players and helped my friend get a good start in his career. Let me know what your first game was like! Your comments are always welcome!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Here we go!

That time has come again! I started the Spring season this weekend by doing a day of a local girls college showcase tournament. It ended up being a pretty good day for me with 2 games in the middle and 4 on the lines. It was pretty clear the younger girls were scheduled in my time slots. I had a U-15 game and a U-16 game. It's a start, although I want to try my hand at the U-17-u-19 ages so I can start thinking about my upgrade to 7.
I really felt like I did a pretty good job and didn't make much in the way of mistakes. As some of you may know from reading my blog, I've been trying to concentrate more on making eye contact with my assistants as I've missed a few flags in games. This tournament showed I have made improvements in that area. I felt like my positioning was better and I was keeping my eyes on the ARs.
In one game, I had a player go down in her own penalty area. The ball was played off to the corner and I saw it go over the touch line. In hindsight, I think I gave the ball to the wrong team after we got the fallen player squared away. It just goes to show that you need to keep every detail in your mind. Fortunately, it wasn't a huge mistake but merely something I need to remember.
One thing I found myself pondering at the end of the day is how to deal with players that basically collide going for the ball. I had that happen in one of my games. I felt the ball was basically 50/50 and the girls merely collided trying to get to the ball first. One of the girls got a little banged up and I restarted with a dropped ball. I asked my AR about it at the half and he said he would have went with a foul. So how do you do that if you see it as a 50/50 ball? Both players have the right to go for the ball. I guess it's one of those "opinion of the referee" calls.
The other referees I worked with were pretty good. There was one odd thing though. One of the guys didn't have a gold jersey with him! How do you go to a high-level tournament without a gold jersey? He seemed to be a pretty experienced guy too. It bothered me a little. In the 2 games I was referee, he wore a USSF sweatshirt instead of a jersey, even after one of the guys offered him a short-sleeve gold jersey. It looked sloppy and unprofessional. Yes, I believe those things do matter. You can't expect people to take you seriously if you don't look like you are taking your job seriously. It invites dissent.
The next day, I had some league games scheduled. I could have put in for the 2nd day of the tournament, but I feel some obligation to my league assignor so I made sure to keep the day open for his games. I was originally scheduled for 3, but 2 were canceled, apparently for a lack of players. I ended up with the middle for a U-13 boys game. Again, this game went real well. I was assigned with 2 very competent officials. I've worked with one of them a few times and he's a real professional, pleasant guy. The other referee proved to be very good too. I'm told she's a grade 7 and has been doing this for some time.
The game had a minor coach problem that I shut down pretty quickly. After a foul called by one of the ARs, I heard one of the coaches say, loud enough so I could hear it, "this is why referees should play the game." As I ran by, I said to the coach, "Take it easy coach, we don't need any of that." He said "I'm allowed to disagree with you" to which I replied, rather quickly "Yes, but you are not allowed to dissent." That seemed to make it clear to him that I wasn't to be trifled with as I didn't hear anything from him for the rest of the game. I felt good about it because I dealt quickly with the problem without having to resort to being rude, or disrupting the game by getting out the notebook (we card coaches in this state)
All in all, it was a good weekend. I put in my availability for another college showcase next weekend. Hopefully, I get some older age games.