Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More (Boys) National Championship Series

It occurred to me over the last day or so that I really didn't pass on anything constructive about my first state cup experience, and I have to apologize for that. My stated purpose for this blog is to try and pass on things I experience and learn, so I'm going to make good on that.

Importance of Pre-Game

How often do you deliver any kind of pre-game talk when you are the referee? I suspect many of you give the 30-second, "stay on your offside line, don't let me screw-up" talk. I'm referring to a real thorough pre-game discussion. For an example, check out the pre-game article on
My pre-game talk is far from perfect. Here are just a few of the things I talk about:
  • Make eye contact all the time
  • Don't worry about "my area/your area." Make calls based on who had a better view.
  • Watch the players behind my back.
  • You may come on the field and set up ceremonial restarts.
  • What do we know about these teams?
  • Let's review the competition rules
In my opinion, the foundation to being a quality referee is to take seriously your obligation to know the Laws of the Game inside and out, backwards and forwards. You cannot be a good official without knowing the laws. Implied in that opinion is knowing the rules peculiar to whatever competition authority you find yourself working under. For example, if you go to a tournament, and they only want substitutions on goal kicks that occur in even numbered minutes, so be it (Before you ask, I have not come across anything that bizarre). You know the rules and you follow them, or you should not work the competition.
For my first state cup game as the referee, I had AR's that I did not know. My 4th official was a guy I have worked with at USSF Development Academy games. I noticed during my pre-game that he seemed more interested in the game on the next field over than what I had to say about our impending game. I politely asked him a few times to focus on me. I reviewed all the things above and more. During the game, he tried to get me to substitute players on the opposing teams throw-in, which is directly against competition rules. In hindsight, I should have absolutely insisted he pay attention to what I was saying before the game. You must assert yourself in these situations, even if the team member is more experienced than you.
If you read my previous post, you know my game didn't go as well as I had hoped. I take some of the blame for that. I probably could have clamped down on some of the more minor stuff. As one of my colleagues pointed out in his comments, perhaps I was taking too many risks for the sake of game flow. Check out the Game Management Model 2009 directive from the USSF if you don't know what I'm referring to. The more I think about it, my demeanor changed as the stress level of the game rose. I think the game would have gone much better had I talked to the players more often. In addition to more frequent talks, my tone should have been more "I need your help with this" than "You need to change your behavior now." Things go much better if you are the coolest head on the field.
I can't stress enough the direct relationship between your fitness and the quality of your game. I believe my fitness to be very good relative to other referees doing the same types of games as me. Even with my fitness level, I was struggling in parts of the game to be as close to play as I really wanted. It was a very hot day (93° F) and this takes it's toll on you. You must work on your fitness if you want to do better games. I try to run 3-5 miles at least twice a week. I'll often do it 4 times a week. Occasionally, I'll go to the track and do intervals to maintain my speed.

Fourth Official

Being the fourth official was interesting. It is not something, as youth soccer referees, we get to do very often. As the referee, having a quality fourth official is invaluable as it takes much of the "noise" off your shoulders and allows you to concentrate on the game. The responsibilities of the fourth official are outlines clearly in the USSF's "Guidelines to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials." If you don't have this publication, buy it. Once a year, review the book. Pay special attention to the items that refer to the fourth as you never know when you might get to do this.
It was an interesting experience because I got to observe the game without the direct responsibility of making any calls. I don't want to give you the impression that I was sitting in a chair, sipping a cool drink. It's not like that. You must pay strict attention to the game as the referee needs to know what you saw in the even of an incident. This position is also an exercise in man management when team staff gets a little worked up. You must learn to be calming, yet assertive at the same time. You must also be clear with your instructions to the players. As they come up to half way, I immediately walk to them, ask them to tuck in their jersey, observe their shin guards and lack of jewelry and indicate where I'd like them to stand while I wait for the next opportunity to get them in. Most of all, do not let them go on the field until their teammate comes off. This is the law and you must follow it. For more on managing the technical area, check out the 2009 directive, "Managing the Technical Area."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Interesting, but Disappointing

Normally, I don't write entries that have a negative feel to them, but I will have a hard time hiding my disappointment in this posting.
I attended our National Championship Series quarter finals yesterday. I was assigned the middle for one of the games and asked for my upgrade assessment. I attended a mandatory meeting last week. I researched the teams I knew I was getting and even went through some of the new sections in "Advice" publication. I put in quite a bit of time to be sure I was ready for my game. I went to the fields the night before to make sure I knew where they were located. I arrived at the field the day of the game several hours early so I could watch the previous game. All of this was done to properly prepared for my assessment...which didn't happen. Apparently, someone failed to ask assessors to come to the games in time for them to be available, so none were there. I don't really understand that. I assume state cup games are scheduled many months in advance. My next two weekends, I only have lines, no middles. I spoke with one of the committee guys and tried to express my disappointment. He said he'd get me a game for the semi-finals. We'll see. For those of you that have gone to these types of tournaments, does this sound a little unusual?
To make it worse, my game was...well...trying. The summary is this: 3 cautions, 2 send-offs. Yeah. The first half went really well. 9 minutes into the second half, there was a tackle right in front of me. By my view, the player with the ball fell and landed on the ball. The defender was standing over him. As the attacker was getting up, the defender stomped on his thigh. In my view, this was a clear send off. In hindsight, I probably should have stopped play immediately, but as I mentioned, the attacker was getting up. Anyway, that was the catalyst for the game to go down hill. The team with the send-off was generally getting outplayed to begin with and them playing a man down tipped the scales. After that, it was nothing but dissent and debate.
In fact, I had spoken to one of their players about his constant comments at least 2 times. Late in the 2nd half, he was taking the ball into the opponents half when he was fouled. As we stopped play, he shoved the defender. I cautioned him for it and he proceeded to call me...something not very nice. That was the 2nd send off.
It was a tough game. The feedback I received from the others was maybe I was not clamping down on the small stuff and that caused the violent conduct send-off. I accept that maybe I should have been a little tighter, but I will not accept that I am somehow responsible for a players actions. I didn't make him stomp on that player's leg.
It was a tough weekend and I'm disappointed and a bit disillusioned. I feel like I could have done a better game, and I really feel like I'm going to have a tough time getting this upgrade assessment.
Let me know if you have had similar circumstances.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I'm very excited to say I've received invitations to not one, but two important tournaments! The first to arrive is an invitation to work state cup and the 2nd is an invitation to work the Region 1 ODP tournament.
At first, I thought my attendance at the recent upgrade class put me on the list for state cup, but I found out later my league assignor recommended me to the committee. The invitation makes it clear that it does not mean you'll get a game. I'm going to accept and see what happens. The invitation does ask that you indicate your need for an upgrade assessment, so perhaps I'll get a middle in a quarter final game to satisfy my assessment requirement.
I can only assume my upgrade class attendance did get me on the radar for the Region 1 tournament. Although I don't know much about it, I'm really looking forward to that one as well. There are a couple of pre-match meetings involved and we are representing our state, so it's an important tournament. As always, I will be doing my best both on, and off, the field.
Both tournaments are a great opportunity to work high-level games with very skilled referees. It is a bonus if my attendance at either event results in a positive assessment that finishes my upgrade process. Even if that doesn't happen, I expect to gain a great deal of experience just by attending and observing the other officials. I'm really excited about both events and I'm sure I'll have quite a bit to write about after they occur.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Putting Together My To-do List

I had my first U-19 boys league game yesterday. The teams were not playing in one of the highest divisions, but sometimes, it's the lower ranked teams that can be more problematic.
In general terms, the game was not particularly challenging. Red only had 1 or 2 available subs and black had none. It was a very, very windy day, so it was going to be tough for the teams to put together more than a couple of passes and I suspected their play might be a little slower than normal, given the lack of bench relief. Most of the tackles in the first half, and for much of the 2nd half, were clean. In fact, very few were even close to foul play. That said, there were some things that should have grabbed my attention. For example, one player on black was playing quite aggressively. For the most part, his play was trifling at worst. I used my best man-management skills in talking to him once or twice to let him know I was watching and he needed to dial his play back some. In hind sight, I should have been calling more of his play foul, and probably could (should?) have cautioned him for persistent infringement.
The only incident in the game, which I probably could have avoided, was a bit of a mass confrontation in added time of the 2nd half. The rough player mentioned above came in hard on a red player, charging him off the ball. I was maybe 15 yards away. Red responded with a hard push to the back. I blew the whistle and made my presence immediately known by coming to the spot and commanding players to separate immediately. I cautioned the red player for the push to the back, but failed to caution black. Again, in hindsight, I failed in this regard.
The positive result of this match is I've identified the areas I need to concentrate on in preparation for being assessed. I need to work on foul recognition. I think I need to start cautioning earlier, or set the bar a little lower for what I think qualifies as a caution and I need to pay much closer attention to who did what in a mass confrontation situation. If you have suggestions for ways to improve in these areas, let me know. For now, I have my to-do list and I need to start checking these items off.