Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spring is Coming

In my area of the United States (mid-Atlantic), the youth soccer season will be starting again shortly. My email in-box is already getting requests for availability for a handful of early Spring tournaments, so it is time to prepare for the coming season.

I gather that most referees really don't do much in the way of preparation, other than attend a recertification class. I prefer to do things a little differently. My preparation involves some education, physical improvement as well as some common sense items.


Yes, I attended my recertification class. It seems, at least in my state, that there was an emphasis on dealing with infractions that occur during penalty kicks. I'm told someone got it wrong at one of our state cup games. Since this is where the state committee wants me to spend some of my time, I've reviewed the materials several times.
Before every season, I like to re-read three key documents. They are:
  • The new version of the Laws of the Game

  • Advice to the Referee on the Laws of the Game

  • Guidelines and Procedures
Reading the Laws of the Game once or twice a year should be a no-brainer for all referees. After all, it is the basis for what we do. I'm always surprised when I hear other officials talk about the laws in a way that convinces me they've never actually read them. If you think about it, it is possible to be a youth referee without having to read the laws.

The "advice" publication is the greatest. It's the book that US Soccer publishes (ok, it's really more of a "booklet") that explains what the laws really mean, according to the federation. It deals with most, if not all, of those tricky situations that we all have to deal with at one time or another. To me, reading and understanding "advice" is critical to being a good quality official. If you are following what is in "advice" you are not likely to be considered a referee that is "making it up as they go." For me, that is all the motivation I need.

The Guidelines and Procedures booklet should be read by all referees just to remind them what an Assistant Referee is supposed to do and what they are supposed to look like. My personal estimate is something like 40-60% of the referees that run a line for me have poor mechanics. I'm probably guilty of it on occasion too. It's not that hard to get right, and by reading the Guidelines and Procedures once or twice a year, we are reminded of good mechanics on the field. Looking the part on the field goes a long way in avoiding controversy and dissent. The guidelines book also reminds us of our administrative duties as referees. If you are not doing your administrative duties correctly and thoroughly, you are not doing your job.

All of these documents, and quite a few more, can be found on the US Soccer website. Did you know these documents are available in nice, printed booklet format too? Go to the US Soccer store and pick them up. They are very inexpensive and make a good addition to your referee bag.

Physical Preparation

I start taking my running more seriously about now. The fall season isn't a problem for me because I run most of the summer anyway. I slack off a little in the winter though, so I've been building up my run recently. I concentrate on running more consistently, as well as working on some specific things like endurance and speed. Lately, I've taken to doing some side-stepping, in preparation for being an assistant, as well as running backward. It's time to get the body used to the physical exertion that comes with running 2 or 3 games on a spring weekend. An injury can end your season real quick, or at least make the rest of it very uncomfortable.
Being physically prepared goes to selling your calls as well. It is much easier to sell a controversial call if you are 10 yards from the incident, rather than 30 yards away, huffing and puffing, trying to catch up to the play. I don't know about you, but I do not want to be accused of being a "center circle referee."

Other Things to Consider

When was the last time you changed the battery in your watch? Get it done before the season starts. It is cheap insurance. Take all your uniforms out of your bag and wash them. They probably smell a little musty from being in the garage all winter. How do your shoes look? It only takes about 5 minutes to polish them up a little. Do you have enough game cards and some extra pens/pencils in your bag? While the uniforms are out of it, why not wash the inside of your bag? I don't know about yours, but mine ends up with some grass and dirt floating around in there after a long season.

What do you do to prepare for the season? Send your comments and let me know! Thanks.


Madam referee said...

Wow! You seem to be very well organized! We don't have any down time where I live. We go straight from Fall season to High school, middle school, and Coed adult league. Several of us choose to work year round. It sure can get tiring at times, but very rewarding at times! The pay is relly good for high school and the other games can be worked by any age. I have children in both leagues and I play coed so we get to referee while we are at the fields any way! I think I come into spring in the best shape ever!

Madam referee said...

I forgot to mention how I prepare my referee bag. I fold each shirt and store it in a gallon size freezer bag with 1/2 of a dryer sheet. I place my socks in a bag and my shorts in a bag as well. I label the bags as to what size and the sleeve length. This sure makes finding what I need easier and saves me in case of rain! I also pack a bag with bandaids, blister pads, an instant cold pack, and Ibuprofen. You never know when you will need these! I also pack some peanuts and granola bars for those long days on the field! I also put a copy of laws of the game and any updates I have received in a smaller bag. I have attached velcro to the inside of my bag to hold my patch after games. This makes it much easier to find in a hurry!