Monday, April 16, 2007

Learning by Doing - Tournament Participation

If you have been reading some of my other posts, you know that I've been somewhat concerned and frustrated with getting assignments and experience. There were some communication issues on my part and the weather was not cooperating on those weekends that I did get assignments. I was happy to receive a response from an assignor for a premier level tournament in my area. I've written about actively pursuing assignments by contacting various assignors in your area. It paid off for me. You have to be proactive and persistent!
My original schedule for the tournament was for 2 days. The 4-man crew to which I was assigned was scheduled for 8 games on Saturday and 5 games on Sunday. It became apparent to me that the 4 member team is a common arrangement. The 4 members are assigned to a particular field and the members work out the schedule for the day between them. It is usual for a particular member to work the center, then each touch line, then have a game off to eat and rest. It is done this way so the person just coming off rest is assigned to the center so they are rested and fresh.
My 4 person crew assembled on the field about 40 minutes before our first match. After checking the nets, and inflating the match ball, we worked out our schedule for the day. I was to be the first center referee, and then I would work each of the touch lines before getting a game off. Oddly enough, we were given the wrong size match ball. It's a good thing we scrutinized it before the game.
We had a quick pre-game conference before my first match. I asked the other guys to make whatever calls they felt necessary, with the exception of fouls in the penalty area, of course. I also made it clear that I was pretty new and I needed them to help me from doing anything awful.
The tournament committee was very clear that all games would have 30 minute halves and a 5 minute half time. They made it clear all games would start on time. In fact, we were to end games within 5 minutes of the scheduled start time of the next game. There were to be no late games. With that in mind, my crew was adamant with teams about getting their players out on the field for the kick off on time. Take note of this. If the tournament tells you something similar, they are serious. You must get those teams on the field, on time, and start the games. You have to be stern with the coaches on this issue.
We started my first match right on time. It was an advanced U-14 match, so I was excited to be out there. All went fairly well. I made a maximum effort to keep up with play and pay attention to fouls as to maintain control of the game. I tried to strike a balance between letting the teams play and maintaining control and I think I did a pretty good job. I thought all went well in the first half.
At the half time whistle, the 2 AR's met me at the center of the field. I was shocked when they wanted to know why I was ignoring their flags! Apparently, I had missed 2 or 3 offside flags. This was incredible to me. Needless to say, I promised to pay more attention. Lesson learned. You must pay attention to your assistants, looking at them often to make sure there are no raised flags. The 2nd half of my first match went much better. I should point out however, that it can be very tough to hear a coach asking for a substitution on a windy day when you are 50 yards away. Pay attention to the technical area as well. Glance over at each stoppage if possible.
Another first for this tournament was my first misconduct. A reckless tackle in the 2nd half had me showing the yellow card. I was very careful to stop the game (it was a foul so I had stopped the game anyway). Calling the player away from the others, I quickly explained to him why he was being cautioned and I noted all his information. I showed him the card and we restarted play.
The next 2 games were on the lines for me. As I've written before, doing the lines is tougher than it looks! It is critical to maintain proper positioning, which is even with the 2nd to last defender or the ball, whichever is closest to the goal line. At this level of play, things happen quickly, so constant concentration is imperative. Personally, I find getting direction of restarts right when on the line to be tougher than when I am the center. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps I'm thinking too hard?
Learning from Others
In your mind, be critical of what you are seeing. Even experienced referees probably have a few bad habits. Since this was my first real experience working with others, I found that to be true. Just because an experienced official does something a certain way, that does not mean you necessarily want to do it too. As an example, consider my experience with misconduct during the tournament. As I noted above, I cautioned a player for a reckless tackle. I followed the recommendations from my class very carefully. While I was working the line for a later game, the center chose to caution a player for dissent. He showed him the card, but then I noticed he did not record any of his information! Thinking that I had merely missed the recording part of the procedure, I was careful to watch the next cautionable situation, and, sure enough, the center was definitely not recording any of the cautioned player's information. Personally, I think that's bad enough for a single match, because you could miss a second caution and not send off a player. It's even worse at a tournament, where cautions can carry over to other matches. It's part of your administrative duties and you are paid to do it.
I have come to the conclusion that, as a center, I'd really like my assistants to enforce proper substitution procedure. All of the guys I worked with at the tournament seemed to be ok with substitutes running onto the field well before their player was completely off. At this level, the big risk is ending up with too many players on the field. At the higher levels, you could end up dealing with misconduct by someone who is neither a player nor a substitute. Allow sloppy substitution at your own peril!
Equipment and Preparation
My shoes are terrible! There, I've said it. My feet hurt unbelievably bad at the end of the day. I'm a newly minted referee, so I purchased shoes similar to what I see other officials wearing. They are basically turf shoes designed for players. If you think about it, that's not really a good shoe for an official. Officials and players have totally different uses and expectations for a shoe. I'm not kicking the ball (At least, not on purpose!). A player's shoe is designed to be snug and provide ball control. Comfort is an after thought. This type of shoe is fine for 1 or 2 games. Try wearing them for 8 hours! I've already ordered an "official's" shoe, manufactured by Spot Bilt. These shoes are more like a running shoe, but with a turf tread pattern. I'm hoping the extra support helps me. Lesson learned.
If you are even mildy "hair challenged," be sure you put sunscreen on your scalp. I was surprised to find that, even on a cool day, you can get a pretty bad sunburn being on the field all day. I picked up a spray-on sunscreen. It's not easy to get it on your scalp, but it's better than nothing.
This one is important. Officiating at a tournament is a long, tough day of physical exercise. Make sure you are eating and drinking enough all day. I stashed a couple of energy bars in my bag. I managed to eat about 1/2 a bar for each half of a game. Along with a couple of big sips from my water bottle, this sustained me adequately for the day. I can see that on a hot day one could deplete their water or energy reserves readily. Be sure to take water and food as you don't have any time between games to get something from the concession stands.
Well, there it is. I feel like I really learned quite a bit from my more experienced crew members. My own experience taught me some things as well. Hopefully, this article will help you learn some things from my experience too.

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