Saturday, May 14, 2011

Me? Really?

It's been a bit of a whirlwind couple of days.  First, I was selected to work my state's National Championship series semi-finals and finals.  I am scheduled to referee a semi-final game, run lines in two semi-final games and be the fourth official in another game.  The next day, I will be an AR in 2 final games.  Needless to say, I'm very pleased.
So you can imagine that I was quite overwhelmed when I finally received an assignment to referee a USSF Development Academy game!  I have worked as an AR on 12 or 14 of these games over the last 2 years or so. I have never been the referee in one of these game and I have been hoping I'd eventually get one.  Well, it happened!
Development academy is USSF's premier youth games.  The clubs that qualify to the academy must meet very rigid standards.  The games themselves have an extensive set of rules that must be followed.  For example, there is a specific brand and model of ball that must be used.  The referee manual specifies the inflation pressure of the ball (I'm not kidding!)  The game reporting standards are quite high and detailed.  These are, in my opinion, the best youth games you can do.
When you are assigned, you typically get two games.  The first game is U-18 and the second is U-16.  Teams at each age level are from the same club.  Presumably they travel together.  They are typically coached by the same set of coaches.  My experience has been that the U-18 game is officiated by a State Referee while the younger game is done by a grade 7.
The game I worked today was terrific!  I had two excellent AR's.  One is a grade 7 that I met when I was upgrading.  The other is a grade 5 that I've never met, but he was very helpful, offering a great deal of advice at half time.
The thing that is amazing about these games is how fast they are played.  They are even challenging as an AR. You cannot lose concentration for a moment or you will miss something.  I have not experienced this level of play anywhere else.  Getting accustomed to this speed of play is not easy.  I really didn't feel completely comfortable until 20 minutes into the first half.  I suppose if you do these games often, this isn't an issue, but that was my experience.  Also, you get a lot of chatter from the players.  They are very advanced players, so you will see all the things you hear about in certification.  There is simulation.  There is dissent.  Players will give you subtle feedback on a regular basis.  The players will try to get any advantage they can.  You have to manage free kicks to avoid any delays on restarts.  It is quite a challenge.  You must have great fitness so you can keep up.
Needless to say, this game was great preparation for my state cup game next week.  We also had a meeting this morning (it was a busy day) to go over some points of emphasis for state cup.  What I found interesting was an observation that I heard from two different people today.  At the meeting, one of the presenters, a national instructor, pointed out that controlling the technical area can be critical at state cup.  His thoughts are that this is a problem because the coaches are accustomed to being able to "game" the referee at their local field.  When they get to state cup, they end up dismissed as they are dealing with a higher level of official that will not tolerate irresponsible behavior in the technical area.  In discussing the state cup game with the referees I worked with today, they said similar things!  So, it sounds like state cup will not be quite as challenging as it relates to the level of play.  It seems there will be more of a need to exercise match control, so I'll need to think about that.


Brian said...

You are correct regarding Technical Area Management at the State Cup. That was a big point of emphasis at ours (why would Colorado State Cup end before New Jersey)? At my assessment, the AR1 was called out for not using "Ask, Tell, Remove" to have the head coach "move back" from the touchline! Also, *all* players enter/leave from center line at the technical area - no exceptions except for injury, and you don't come onto the field until your replacement leaves. Must be a national effort.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for a while. From your descriptions of some of your tournaments I have found I have even worked some of the same tournaments as / with you.

All I can say is - have fun!