Monday, October 8, 2012

Missed Call...or not

This weekend, I had 5 league games.  Apparently, being Columbus day weekend, our assignor was running short of referees so we ended it with a ton of games.  It was a nasty weekend too, being cold and rainy.
My state has recently started offering short-sided games for U-11, similar to several other states.  This weekend was the first time I had one of those games.  My current opinion, based on only this game, is that short-sided at U-11 is a mixed bag.  I think the success of the game depends on the teams involved.  Some teams have players that are just too developed for a small field.  Some teams absolutely should be playing small-sided.  This game was played on a smaller than usual small-sided field, so this certainly influences how I feel about it.
We had one fairly major controversy during the game that I think deserves discussion and analysis.  The white teams goalkeeper gained possession of the ball.  He punted down field into blue's end.  Given the field was a little small, the ball bounced a few yards outside the penalty area.  The blue team's sweeper, who was pretty much alone in the penalty area was running back, right shoulder toward his on goal and left shoulder toward the opponents goal.  I was a few yards past halfway, basically in the middle of the field.
The ball came down just beyond the defender and hit the ground.  By my view, it looked like it bounced up and hit him on the side.  He played the ball out of his penalty area.  Naturally, a few of the parents on that end of the field were screaming "hand ball!", which I generally ignore since they scream that every time a hand gets anywhere near the ball.  I glanced over at my AR and she was not showing any flag, although I suspected she had seen something based on her expression.
As I turned to follow the ball, I again glanced over at her and saw no signal.
After the game, I asked about that particular play.  She said the ball had indeed bounced off the ground and hit the defenders palm (sort of like a basketball dribble).  We didn't really have time to discuss it further as we were preparing for the next game and already running late.
I thought about this event on the way home and came to a couple of conclusions.
  1. My position could have been better.  If I had moved a little wider, I might have seen the suspected handling.
  2. I need to improve my pre-game.  I usually make it clear that if an AR sees a "game changing event" that I missed, I want it signalled and they should hold that flag until I see it.  I wonder if this AR was absolutely sure it was deliberate handling.
  3. Based on the description by the AR, I'm not convinced it was deliberate handling in the first place.  We are talking about U-11 and a ball that may have bounced up and hit the hand, rather than being deliberately handled.
I guess this event should serve as a reminder for us all.  Things happen when you least expect them to happen!  This defender was all by himself, playing a routine goalkeeper distribution.  Also, make clear to your assistants how you want this sort of thing handled (no pun intended).  Personally, I want to make the right call and I expect my assistant referees to flag infractions that they feel I would have called had I been able to see it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Intermediate Clinic and Season Starts

We started the Spring season this weekend.  I worked both Saturday and Sunday, having 1 12 year old game on Saturday and 3 games on Sunday.  It was great to get back on the field!
A couple of weeks ago, I attended my state's intermediate clinic.  I've always wanted to go.  We haven't had one for a couple of years, so I was pretty excited to get invited this time around.
This year's clinic instructors were Craig Lowry and Rob Fereday.  They are both MLS Assistant Referees (1 active and 1 newly retired).
The day was divided into two parts.  The first part of the day concentrated on verbal and non-verbal communication while the 2nd half of the day review foul recognition and selection.  The entire day was very useful.  Here are just a few of the "take-aways" that I used this weekend.
Be conscious of your body language the entire time you are at the field.  Be aware of the messages you are sending by the way you carry yourself.  There are the obvious things we need to think about, like showing up to the field looking professional and put together. There are also the unconscious things we do.  For example, where do you put your hands and arms when you are on the field?  Are you giving the impression that you are closed to communication?  I know I was doing that occasionally.  When you speak to players and coaches, do you look them in the eye?  One interesting thing I picked up was how to manage one's hand motions when speaking with a player.  The instructions suggested keeping your hands within the box created by your torso, rather waving them around outside that area.  The former suggests a normal tone, while going outside that area suggests anger and yelling.
During the foul recognition and selection portion of the day, we talked about man aspects of evaluating fouls to decide if they are trifling, careless, reckless or worse.  A simple tip that has helped me is to always make eye contact with the offender when you call a foul.  I tried it this weekend and it does seem to have a positive effect on match control.  The offending player seemed somewhat self conscious when I looked directly at him after whistling for the foul.  Perhaps they were wondering if I had decided the foul was also misconduct.  I'm going to continue with this technique to see how it effects match control over time.
Anyway, the season is off to a good start.  More soon.  Thanks.