Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why do they call them "Free Kicks" anyway?

I managed to have a 3-game day last weekend.  I was on a crew with 2 young referees.  Both did a fine job.
Generally, I try to offer new referees some help with things I notice during a game.  It is usually along the lines of "You're doing a great job.  You might want to keep an eye on..."  Some new referees are not willing to hear this and completely ignore it.  If you are one of those guys, realize it is a team effort.  Any feedback for improvement is useful.  You can accept or reject input from other referees.  That's your choice, but do so at your own peril.  Most referees have something to offer you for improvement.
It's frustrating when other referees are not following the rules of the competition, or the Laws of the Game, for that matter.  It makes life more difficult for everyone. I understand we often do games from several different leagues and many different tournaments.  How often do you actually read the rules of the competition?  As a referee, you often work your league games for the same league and assignor for many years.  Do you try to read the rules for your league at least once a season?   You must!  Leagues are always changing rules in very subtle ways.  Every week, I will hear things from coaches related to these rule changes.  In some cases, the rules did not change.  However, last week's referee is getting the league rules confused with some other league or tournament they have worked.  For example, the league I work has slightly different rules for throw ins in the short-sided games.  Players get one retake for a foul throw before the ball turns over to the opponent.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had coaches tell me that "last weeks referee" didn't do it that way.  I re-read the rules of the competition.  This is how our league wants to game played.  Go, right now, and download your league's rules.  They are usually found on the leagues web site.  Give them a quick read and follow them to the letter!

I had some interesting issues with free kicks in a U-14 boys game.  In the first 10 minutes, I called a foul at mid-field.  As a side note, I am one to encourage quick free kicks.  I will often point to the spot of the foul and start moving away, keeping my eyes on the attackers in case they want the ceremonial free kick.  In this case, as I'm moving away, 2 defenders set themselves up maybe 6-7 yards from the ball.  The attackers take the kick, but as they do, one of the defenders lunges forward, blocking the kick.  I immediately stopped play, signaled for a retake and cautioned the players.  Some thought that was harsh, but there is this from "Advice to Referees:"
On the other hand, when the attacking team has exercised the option to restart play quickly and the opponent closer than the required distance moves toward the ball and performs an act that makes a difference in the play, such as blocking the kick, that player has committed an offense that must be dealt with firmly in accordance with the Law. After the referee has cautioned the failure to respect the required distance, the original free kick must be retaken as required by Law 13.
Clearly, we are to caution this behavior based on this writing.
Later in the game, I had a very similar situation.  In this case, it was a delaying the restart as the attackers never tried to put the ball in play.  The player (from the same team incidentally) was maybe 5 yards from the ball.  As the attacker started to run up for the kick, the defender stuck his foot out. The attacker pulled up.  I whistled and tested the player for his ability to identify the color yellow.  Turns out he saw it just fine.  I was a little surprised the lesson had not been learned, but they are 14 year-olds.
Speaking of free kicks, I had a situation that you coaches out there might want to consider.  A red attacker came free around halfway.  He dribbles straight in on goal.  The goalkeeper comes out to meet him just outside the penalty area.  The attacker attempts to flick the ball over the keeper as the keeper slides in front of him.  The keeper does make contact so I call the foul (yes, I considered DOGSF.  Too far out in my opinion), point to the spot and start moving away as the attacker looked like he would go quickly.  He's caught the defense napping.  He puts the ball down, takes a few steps back...and his coach tells him to wait!  Wow!  This was an easy goal.  The keeper had not moved back into the goal quickly.  The attacker would have just kicked the ball into the net.  From a referee view point, this is why we encourage the free kick. When you award a free kick, get out of the way and see if the players want to go quickly.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Rules Do Not Apply To Him

Wow, I had an interesting weekend.  Just when I thought I didn't have much left to write about...
I received a 3 game assignment this weekend, which I haven't had for some time.  I've been getting quite a few 1 game assignments.  We had U-11, U-12 and U-14.  I was assigned with my younger son as well as another referee that I've worked with on a few occasions. What a great day for soccer! We had perfect weather and a really nice field.  You have to love that.
The first 2 games went really well.  My son did the U-11 game.  He's developing into a fine official.  I had the U-14 game and that went well too. The field we had for the day was not unusually long, but it was very WIDE.  Note to self:  Do a little more running during the week.  I felt like my conditioning isn't what it should be.  I did fine with the 14's, but I will suffer when the college showcases come in November.
The interesting situation arose with the U-12 game.  The home club was set up to help under privileged kids from a nearby small city have an opportunity to play competitive soccer.  I've worked with teams from this club before.  The players are skilled and always play hard.  When checking the player passes for the team,
I asked the trainer for his pass.  He told me the coach, who had not yet arrived had them.  "No problem," I said, I'll come back in a few minutes and collect them.  I noticed the coach arrive so I went over and asked for the coach passes.  The coach tells me he doesn't have them.  Our local rule is "No Pass, No Play."
I explain to the coach that we may not be able to play as the league does not allow anyone without a coaching
pass to be in the technical area. I went and talked to the center referee who had the same position as me. While we are talking, the coach approaches us and gets quite beligerent and rude, calling us "a joke."  (Coaches: if you are reading this, that approach is not the best way to get someone to try to help you out when you make a mistake).  Not only that, but he brought up the fact that the club is for under privileged kids, the implication being that somehow we are being mean to the kids.  Keep in mind, he's the one that didn't bring his pass.  I mention to the referee that I'm willing to give our assignor a quick call to double check that there is no way around this.  We agreed and I made the call.  It turns out the league is fine with it as long as one of the carded coaches from the other team is willing to monitor the opponent's bench.  It's an odd arrangement, but workable.  So we ended up doing the game.  The referee even allowed the offending (offensive?) coach to be in the technical area which he is clearly not entitled to do without a pass.  The coach later apologized for his behavior.
The interesting thing about the ordeal is during the conversation, the coach mentioned a few times that
he has a national license etc.  I pointed out that it doesn't matter since he has no coaching pass.  However,
I did have the feeling I had seen this guy before.  On the way home, my son realized who he was.  He coaches a division 1 college team!  Unbelievable.
The lesson here is this:  Make sure you know your local Rules of the Competition inside and out.  Follow the rules and you can't go wrong.  Do not be swayed by those that bend the rules for their convenience.  They will not be there when you have to defend your position and decisions.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yes, I'm still around

I have just a short updated that is really intended to reaffirm that I'm still around and I'm still a referee.
I haven't been posting much because...well...I haven't been getting many games.  Is it me or are there less games available this season?  I got turned down early in the season for 2 tournaments that I have always worked.  Part of the problem was my fault.  I had not put in availability right away, so I ended up at the back of the line.  However, the assignor made it clear that the participating team count had declined significantly this year.  I have had a few league games this season, but I'm only getting 1 or 2 games a weekend (usually the number is 2 or 3) and they have all been small sided.  Is the economy hurting tournaments?  Have the number of U-14 and under teams declined?
Send me your comments!  Tell me if you have noticed a significant decline in teams going to tournaments.   What's going on with your league?  Are there fewer teams?  Make sure you include your state so we know where your are located.  Thanks.