Monday, November 30, 2009

Wrong Way Referee

This weekend, I worked one day of a large, boys, college showcase tournament.  I've worked this tournament before.  It's always good because you typically have the older ages and the players (for the most part) are on their best behavior as they are trying to impress the many college coaches that show up to scout.
In the morning, we meet with the assignor at a central location to get our field assignment, game cards and tournament ball (why do they always get a lousy ball?).  He makes the announcement that we are to run the opposite diagonal because the fields are getting beat up.  Oh boy!  If you've never done this, I cannot express how confusing it is.
I've only run the reverse diagonal (running toward the right-side corner flag, with your leading AR on your left) for a 1/2 game, about a year ago.  I got to run it for 2 complete U-17 boys games on Saturday and I was the AR for 3 more games.  It's amazing to me how something so simple can screw up a perfectly good referee.  For the first 1/2 of both games, I felt really uncomfortable and had a hard time finding good positioning.  I got hit by the ball no less than 3 times in 2 games.  I finally figured out I was lagging too far behind play and not getting wide enough.  I felt out of place all day, even though I greatly improved in the 2nd half of both games.
I was not the only one.  My colleagues seem to be struggling a bit as well.
As an AR, it's still awkward.  It's odd sprinting down the field, looking right to see the offside line!  Try signaling offside with your left hand.  It just doesn't feel right!  Next time you have a lower level game, run the opposite diagonal to see what it's like.
What is your definition of abusive or insulting language?  We had a game in which one of the coaches started in on the officials within the first few minutes of the game.  They were not particularly abusive, but I would call the action dissent.    I was the team-side AR on the game.  I asked the coach at least 2 times to stop with the questioning.  At one point, when I was down by the corner flag, I saw the coach engage in a heated debate with the opposing coach.  I sprinted down the line and got in front of him.  I gave him the "Coach, I have had enough.  Stop now."  He apologized and I walked away.  As I'm walking away, he yells at my back that the other team is "a bunch of cheats."  In my little world, calling anyone in a soccer game a cheat is abusive.  Soccer has a tradition of sporting conduct, and calling anyone a cheat is at least insulting.  I immediately called the referee over and told him what happened.  He tells me to give the team one more chance.  Doh!
Guess what?  At the end of the game, we had a mass confrontation because this same coach was mouthing off to the opposing team's players!  Just a reminder, when your AR tells you a coach has to go, they are probably right.
So what do you do if you have a tree hanging over the field and the ball hits it?  We had just this situation on our field.  Hint: It's not a dropped ball situation.  I found this in "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
(c) Pre-existing conditions
These are things on or above the field which are not described in Law 1 but are deemed safe and not generally subject to movement. These include trees overhanging the field, wires running above the field, and covers on sprinkling or draining systems. They do not affect one team more adversely than the other and are considered to be a part of the field. If the ball leaves the field after contact with any item considered under the local ground rules of the field to be a pre-existing condition, the restart is in accordance with the Law, based on which team last played the ball. (Check with the competition for any local ground rules.)
Note: The difference between non-regulation appurtenances and pre-existing conditions is that, if the ball makes contact with something like uprights or crossbar superstructure, it is ruled out of play even if the contact results in the ball remaining on the field. Where there is a pre-existing condition (such as an overhanging tree limb), the ball remains in play even if there is contact, as long as the ball itself remains on the field. Referees must be fully aware of and enforce any rules of the competition authority or field owner regarding non-regulation appurtenances.
Yes, this surprised me too.  I think the best practice here is to remind the teams ahead of time how this is going to be handled.  I never thought I'd actually see this situation, but upon observing the other fields, I noticed there were 2 or 3 fields with trees overhanging one goal area and 1 field with a tree near halfway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Futsal Is Not Ready For Me

Last night, I attended a meeting to review the Futsal Laws of the Game.  I signed up to referee in the local Futsal league.  My good friend, and referee, did it last year and he encouraged me to come out and give it a try.
Wow, I'm in big trouble.  I had no idea the laws are significantly different from outdoor soccer.  If you're interested, all the information you'll need is right here. I have a feeling this is going to feel like my very first game.  I'll be completely overwhelmed for the first few games and then start to feel more comfortable as time goes on.  Undoubtedly, I will have some stories that will be sure to entertain.  Stay tuned...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interesting Tournament Experience

There's a pretty big tournament in this area that I've worked a couple of times.  The games are always competitive and the organization is decent.  This year, I didn't put in for it as both my sons were playing so we were quite busy.  A few days before the tournament, I get an email from the assignor.  The implication of the email was that he was short of referees and really needed more.  I sent him an email saying I could work the Sunday of the tournament if he put me at a particular facility (were my son was playing).  I got a reply within 10 minutes confirming I was assigned, so I guess he really was in need.
On Sunday, I arrive at the facility at the appointed time.  Most tournaments I work the assignor will send you your specific field assignment a few days before the tournament.  This assignor asks that you report at a specified time to a central location to get your assignments.  So there I was, standing in the crowd of referees while the names are read and officials leave for their field.  We get to the bottom of the list, and I don't have any assignments.  My name is on the list, but apparently they had a field closed and didn't need me at this facility.  Unbelievably, they ask me to go to another facility that's a few minutes drive away.  The guy standing in front of me is not the assignor I sent the email to explaining why I need to be at this facility, so I didn't make a big deal of it.
I jumped into my car and headed over to the other field.  These facilities are actually in the outer edges of a city and I don't know the area very well, so I made a wrong turn and it took me a little longer than I had hope.  I was getting a little frustrated.  I finally get to the facility, park and walk to the tournament headquarters, only to find out they don't need me until 9:20.  Yes, this day was just going down hill.
I reported to my field and met the referees I'd be working with.  I ended up doing 3 games on the field.  My first center was a U-18 girls game.  I ran a line on a U-15 boys game and then did the center for a U-15 boys semi-final match.
The U-18 girls game went fine.  There were really no issues to speak of.  The field was slick so we had some issues with players making tackles that could easily be perceived as reckless.  I had a few talks with some of the players to point this out and all went well.  Given the schedule, we really didn't have much time for a thorough pre-game talk.  I would have preferred to have one since I had never worked with any of these officials, but the "quick and dirty" version had to suffice.

During the game in which I was an AR, I made an observation.  The referee that had the center was definitely one of those "likes to pick fights" referees.  You know the type I mean.  It's the guy that doesn't know what "trifling" means.  Any player talking to him is either immediately cautioned for dissent or is given some kind of angry retort meant to intimidate.  It's too bad really, because he seems to be a pretty good official, just kind of mean.
Later in my 2nd game, I had a small issue with him.  During my pre-game with the players, one of the goalkeepers asked me to check the hat which they intended to wear on the field (the sun was shining in the direction of one of the goals).  It was one of those runner hats.  It didn't look unsafe in any way to me, so I allowed it.  About midway through the 2nd half of the game, the referee in questions start waving at me and pointing at his head and then at the goalkeeper.  Obviously, he was trying to indicate the goalkeeper's hat.  I yelled to him "Thank you, I inspected it earlier" to which he replied, loudly "OK, it's your decision, " clearly trying to imply that this was some sort of huge mistake.  I couldn't believe he had done that, but there it was.  Fortunately, I was in a pretty good mood and was able to forget about it almost immediately.  Looking back on it now, it's pretty annoying as he openly questioned my decision in front of players and perhaps the near-bench coaches.