Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reflecting on My First Season

Having completed my first season, I've started to think about many of the things I've observed and learned. After 39 games, I've learned quite a lot. My skills have improved significantly and I'm feeling more confident in my ability. I've started to observe various behaviors by others involved in the sport, and that has contributed to my successful season. This entry contains a summary of my thoughts and observations that didn't fit neatly into any other post.
Parents routinely embarrass themselves during games. It really is amazing to me that seemingly sane, educated people routinely make themselves look like fools during a youth sporting event. Most of the time, these parents really have no knowledge of the game and are merely venting emotion and frustration. Other times, I believe these people have some level of an abusive or controlling personality. I believe, for the most part, parents can be controlled by 2 techniques. Depending on the situation, a stern look/word toward the parent will often work to eliminate or at least control the situation. If that doesn't work, remember, it is the coaches responsibility to control their parents. If there is no cooperation in this matter, the match can be terminated.
I find myself wondering why coaches seem to think its a good idea to yell at, and otherwise abuse, soccer officials. Can they possibly think they have some influence over our decisions? My advice for dealing with unhappy coaches is to set the limits early in the match. The minute they cross your limits for irresponsible behavior, they need to receive a stern talking to and perhaps a caution. Do not let coaches abuse you. That behavior is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
Some skills improve with your game count. Thinking back to my first few games, my biggest problem seemed to be signaling the correct direction for a restart! It was a struggle to remember which team was attacking in which direction. I remember being horrified at how slow my decision making ability felt. Now, I don't really worry about those things. They went away pretty quickly.
Evaluate each piece of advice you are offered by more experienced referees. Some of this advice is either not wise, or just plain wrong. There seems to be quite a few myths out there that are often propagated by officials. Realize that a more experienced referee is not correct by virtue of them having more experience. There are some very knowledgeable referees out there. Seek them out. Befriend them. Learn from them.
Think about and ensure your mechanics, especially as an assistant referee, are correct. Maybe I'm too conservative, but there was more than once this season that I noticed poor mechanics from an assistant and it bothered me. At first, I thought it was limited to younger referees, but I realized the problem comes from elsewhere. Assistant referee mechanics are not reinforced through the certification process. In fact, there is little in the US Soccer teaching materials that demonstrates assistant referee mechanics. Take a look at your "Guidelines and Procedures" manual and brush up on those skills. Good mechanics make selling your decisions easier and it makes the referee team look far more professional
On a positive note, it seems there is at least one positive interaction with a game participant for every negative one. We often emphasize the negative when we talk about being a youth soccer referee, but there are many opportunities to have good interactions as well. Try saying hello to a few of the players while they are warming up. Often, you'll find some very nice young men and women on the field!
There are some things I'd personally like to improve. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Get better at positioning so I'm not interfering with play - there were times this past season, especially with the older players, where I felt like I was getting in the way once in a while. I need to work on this.
  • Be more careful about watching the Assistant Referees - There were a couple of times I missed offside flags. Concentrating on your assistants is a must.
  • Work toward getting more center assignments so I can think about upgrading - In looking up the upgrade requirements to go to grade 7, one has to work 75 games as a referee and 25 games as an assistant referee. At the rate I'm going, it will take an awful long time to get to 75. I need to speak with my assignor about this and figure out how to best make that happen.

No comments: