Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Been a Slow Fall

If you live in my area of the country (mid-Atlantic states), you know how much bad weather we've been having.  Once again, my Sunday games were canceled.  However, my assignor called and asked my son and I to report to a different field to work with a 3rd referee that had been assigned to do his games alone.  Interesting, because that tells me that my assignor doesn't have as many active referees as I thought.  Anyway, we did just that and managed to get in a couple of short sided games (U-9 and U-10).  I always enjoy these games, as they are usually fun and have very little stress associated with them.
One observation I have is that the coaches seem to misbehave in the short-sided games more often than the coaches of the older teams.  However, they misbehave i a different way.  They complain about calls far more often, but in a way that is less offensive  than their large field colleagues.  The dissent you get from these coaches is more of the nature of the guy you see in the stands at professional games that is always yelling at the officials.  It's part of the experience for them.  While it is dissent, it's almost comical in the lack of soccer knowledge that it displays.  Do you notice the same thing?
Substitution Problem
It's a pretty typical problem.  Generally speaking, the substitution procedure is not enforced in youth soccer.  Therefore, most teams don't really have a good idea how it works.  Because it is typically not enforced, it's tough for the next referee to enforce it as they teams feel that "it wastes time."  Of course, many referees don't add lost time either, exacerbating the problem.
Apparently, I can't count.  At least I can't count accurately up to 8. Because the teams were being sloppy with their procedure, I was being careful to count the players on and off as the game went.  I was the AR on the team side and I see that as part of my job.  At one point, I noticed one of teams counting the players, during play, and call one of theirs off the field.  I walked up and counted the players with the coach.  I counted 8...2 times.  To make a long story short, the referee counted the players at the next stoppage and counted 9.  What's really annoying for me is I also counted the players at the last substitution and got 8.  I think I'm getting old.
All of this brings me to my thoughts on youth soccer substitutions.  The US Soccer Development Academy has substitution rules that are different from the typical youth rules.  In the Development Academy, substitutions are allowed on any stoppage of play.  However, the academy also has limited re-entry rules.  Once a player comes off, they cannot re-enter the field until the next half.  I think this does two things.  First, it causes coaches to really think about their substitutions instead of taking advantage of the "revolving door" rule we have now.  I've had games were there were substitutions every 4-5 minutes.  Academy games have perhaps 1 or 2 substitutions per half.  Second, I think it formalizes the substitution procedure.  Because of the limited re-entry rule.  Players present their passes when they come on for a substitution.  Since they must present their passes, it slows the process down and makes it so the player can't just run on the field.
I guess the argument against the academy way of doing things is you could argue it's harder to get players adequate playing time.  I don't know if I buy into that though.  I think it improves things because coaches can no longer break up playing time into 5 minute chunks.  It improves the flow of the game for the fans as well as the players.  It makes the game far easier to manage, in my opinion, for the referees.  What do you think?  Send me a comment and let me know.  Is there a downside to this I'm not seeing?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bad Weather, Slow Weekened

I live in the mid-Atlantic states.  We had some awful weather this weekend, so there really wasn't much going on.  The local high schools were giving the PSAT (a standardized test for college admissions) so there weren't too many young referees around to do recreational games.  The assignor that my younger son works with called me and asked me to do a game as he was in a jam.
When I got up on Saturday morning, I fully expect everything to be canceled.  It had rained all Friday night and the temperature was barely 40°F.  I went to the recreational website, just to confirm...what!?  The games are on?  I gathered up all my things and headed to the field.
Upon arrival, I noticed a lack of...well...anyone.  I was sure they'd never get enough players to have a game.  About 15 minutes before game time I got out of the car and walked over to the field.  It was raining steadily and still in the 40's.  There were coaches there and a handful of players.  This being recreational soccer, we stood around for a little while to see how many players would actually show.  I was quite surprised to see they ended up with about 16.  The coaches asked if I'd be OK with playing a half field game with cones as goals or playing shortened halves.  I told them either was fine.  Normally, I'd never do that, but the recreational rules make it clear they want the games to be played and it doesn't really matter how it gets done.  After some discussion, the coaches decided to go with full field, but shorteded (20 minute) halves.
We started the game with the players looking pretty miserable.  Most of them were very cold and wet.  Most had big jackets on and gloves and hats.  You could tell the experienced soccer players as they only wore hats and gloves.  The game went well and after a short while it was obvious the boys were enjoying themselves.  This is what soccer should be like.  The kids were getting a game in while some of their "softer" buddies were in their nice warm houses.  Nobody seemed to care who won, they were just out playing for fun.
It rained the rest of the weekend. All my competitive games were canceled, so that was it for the weekend.  Maybe next weekend we'll finally get some games done.

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Club In Town

OK, the new club is not in my town, but my assignor does have a new club as of the Spring.  Actually, he has 2 new clubs!  My older son and I put in for games this weekend but we only received one, at this new club.  In talking to a few friends, I have heard this club can be a tough place to do a game.  The coaches have a reputation for being mouthy as do the parents.
Early Sunday morning, I got a call from my assignor telling me that our 3rd referee has not responded to his assignments.  The assignor went on to tell me that this guy, if he shows up, is not to work the game and I am to tell him that.  Great.  First, I don't understand guys that put in for games and don't follow through with their commitment.  I realize bad things happen sometimes, and I know this assignor will certainly forgive any legitimate excuse, but how do you just ignore assignments?  This guy won't be working for this assignor anymore.
So my son and I get to the game a little early.  We had never been to this field, so we left a little earlier than required just in case we couldn't find it.  It turned out to be easy to find.  (An aside:  car GPS units are the greatest thing ever invented!)  We checked the field and do a couple of laps to warm up.  My son points out that, while the home team has been at the field since we arrived, there is no sign of an opposing team.  That can't be good.  It turns out, they got confused and went to another field at another club.  Fortunately, that field was on the way to the correct field.  They arrived about 15 minutes after the game start, well inside the leagues 30 minute grace period.
Just as we start the game I realize I never asked a parent to run the sideline for the missing AR.  This isn't that big of a deal because, to be honest, I'm not convinced a club linesman is worth the effort.  Even if you instruct them to not show direction or offside, they inevitably try to do it anyway.  Naturally, this leads to ill will went you wave them down and show a different direction.  This was a lower level U-13 boys game on a relatively small field, so I felt pretty good about being able to do it myself anyway.
Oddly enough, about 10 minutes or so into the game, the home team coaches started giving my AR a hard time about his offside calls.  You might have guessed we'd have problems on the no AR side of the field.  Nope.  It seems the home team was trying an offside trap, but not timing it very well.  I kept making eye contact with my son with that questioning look ("Are you sure they weren't off?) and he gave me the subtle shake of the head ("No way.")  Good enough for me.  It became clear pretty quickly that what I had heard about this team was indeed true and that I'd have to start on my "Ask, Tell, Remove" routine.  At the next goal kick, I held play and walked to within about 15 yards of the bench.  I politely asked the coaches to "cool it" so we wouldn't have any problems.  One of the coaches started with "But you guys have already made 3 bad calls!"  I cut him off with "Coach, I will not be asking next time.  You coach your team and I'll referee the game."  Apparently it worked and they got the message, because I didn't hear anything at all from them for the rest of the game.
One thing that is tough when you don't have a certified AR on the touch line is watching for balls that cross the goal line momentarily.  Even if you have a club linesman, this is tough. You really don't want to take their input on this because it is a game changing decision.  I had one in this game.  The visiting keeper made the initial save on a very hard shot.  He bobbled the ball in the air right on the goal line.  I was maybe 15 yards out, but did not have a good angle to see if the ball had crossed the line.  Fortunately, during his juggling act, I noticed an instant where the ball was clearly behind the post, not next to it.  Goal!  In changing my diagonal, I had given up a little angle on the play and ended up behind the ball, rather than to one side.
It turned out to be a fun game.  The home team won by a good margin, but the visiting side had a few players that really could play the game well.  It was interesting to watch.