Monday, May 7, 2007

On the Hot Seat

This was a weekend for gaining experience, for sure. Through a different assignor, I was put on a field for 3 games with 2 other officials. This was the kind of weekend I wanted for some time. It is a chance to work with others AND to have several games in a row in order to hone my skills. We had a U-14 state cup match, and U-10 and U-12 league games. The night before, my thoughts were the two more experienced (my assumption) guys would want the U-14 and U-12 games and I would get the U-10s. Of course, I'm pretty new so I was OK with that idea and had prepared myself with this thought in mind.
As is my usual practice, I arrived at the field 30 minutes in advance of game time. The other officials arrived around the same time and we made our way to the field. We start discussing our games for the day. They both decide I should do the first game, which is the U-14 state cup game! I would later think they must have know what I was getting into.
The state cup match started and all went well through the 1st half. The game was physical so there were some fouls, including a few that approached being "reckless." I felt we called a decent 1st half by not allowing too much to go without a whistle, but still letting the game be played. There was one problematic player that I had a chat with. He would get a caution later in the game.
The 2nd half started out and was heated right off. The game was getting hot and I started to clamp down a little on the physical play. In hindsight, I probably could have clamped down even harder.
I've read that, in a post-game analysis, you can usually point to one incident in a game that caused things to get difficult. In this instance, it was an offside call wanted by the parents and coaches. The blue team played a ball from about 40 yards out up the right side of the field. I was just behind and to the left of the blue player with the ball and a white defender. When the blue player hit the ball forward, I kept my eyes on the 2 players for a second to make sure there were no fouls after the ball left. The pass went onto the foot of a blue forward and, simultaneously, I could hear the parental screams for an "offsides" call. I glanced at my AR and confirmed he had his flag down as blue put the ball into the net. Having had my eye on the players closer to mid field, I did not see any offside infraction and did not see any reason to disallow the goal. There was quite a bit of complaining coming from a particular group on the sidelines. Again, in my mind's analysis, I should have taken action right then to assert my authority.
A few minutes later, a white defender obviously pushed a blue striker in the penalty area. Great! My first penalty kick. When I pointed to the spot, that same troublesome group really got loud. At this point, before the kick, I walked to within about 20 yards of the sideline and told the parents I had enough and they were to be silent. I felt I need to do this in order to protect my AR, who was taken the brunt of the complaining. The penalty kick was taken and missed. Before the resulting goal kick, I walked to the white team's bench and asked the coach to get his parents under control. Unbelievably, he told me they were my problem and I should do whatever I needed to do!
We played the last 10 minutes or so of the 2nd half tied, 1-1. This match need a winner, so there was the possibility of extra time and kicks from the penalty mark. I found myself hoping for another goal as I really didn't want to get into any of the tie breaking procedures. Fortunately, white scored with about 4 minutes left and then game ended 2-1.
There are a few things I took away from this particular match. Deal with obnoxious parents early, and sternly. One needs to make it clear that things will escalate to an empty sideline quickly. It seems that if you don't deal with the one or two problem parents, you end up dealing with a mob mentality as others start to chime in with their opinion. It also seems to affect the players. The complaining on the field escalates along with the parental complaining. Also, for every game you officiate, know the responsibility of the coaching staff as it relates to their parents. Some leagues make the coaches responsible for the parents behavior and have specific actions the referee can take to deal with the problem.
The good news for the day was the next 2 matches, for which I was an AR, went rather well. We had the U-10 game after the U-14's. That was a little bit of stress relief. The U-12 game came off without a hitch as well. I worked with 2 good guys, and I learned valuable lessons in match control.

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