Monday, June 2, 2008

You Can't Always Choose Your Crew

I returned to a tournament I worked last year. I like the assignor and the tournament is generally well run. My recently certified friend was assigned to the same crew as me and we were given a field at the central location for the tournament. After inspecting the schedule, I realized we were given reasonably high-level games as well.
He Scares Me
The weekend started off a little strange before we even got on the field. My friend found me in the parking lot and told me the assignor had called him and apologized in advance for one of the guys he put on our crew. He said he didn't have a lot of choice as he was running short of guys and had to use him. You know it can't be good when you hear those words.
We arrived at our field to find our 3rd and 4th crew members. I met the referee in question and he seemed ok, although he struck me as having a somewhat awkward personality.
I had the first assignment in the middle and the game went pretty well. I was late in spotting 2 offside flags which kind of irritated me. I'm working on that and it happens more often than I want. I think my positioning might be part of the problem. Anyway, the guy we had been warned about was working as my assistant. He did reasonably well, although some of his calls for the ball in and out of play were sketchy. I did not have great confidence in his decision making ability so I decided I would pay much more attention to that side of the field. We all blow a call once in a while, but it was a little more than that.
Later on in the day, he had his first middle. It was one of our younger age groups of the day. My concerns were realized in that I observed poor foul recognition. I was off for this game so I had the benefit of watching from the comfort of my lawn chair. It only got worse later in the day in his second middle assignment. I watched the first half. I noticed a disproportionate reaction to player dissent. It was an older boys game. There was the normal amount of player rumbling. This guy seemed to have only a loose grip on his temper while interacting with players. Later on, things went bad. Several players were sent off. I observed some of this from a distance (getting something to drink) so I can only comment on what was told to me later. Apparently this official overreacted to a player questioning a call of some sort and seemed to lose control of the match after that. The assignor was called over and he did his best to smooth things over with the players and coaches. From my vantage point, the officials body language told me he might have some anger management issues. He was waving that red card around like he was quite angry.
Now here is my dilemma. This guy made me really nervous. It's one thing to be dicey with foul recognition and maybe not know the laws inside and out, but I sensed some sort of deeper problem when observing his reaction to players. Frankly, he scared me a little. I think I'm going to contact the assignor with my concerns. I'm not sure I'd want him working my kid's games.
Deliberate Pass to the Keeper
During my 2nd middle of the first day, we had a great moment of team observation. I was moving directly behind a group of players. The defending team was following a through ball heading back toward their keeper. A couple of opposing players were in pursuit. As the ball approached the edge of the penalty area, I observed the leading defender tap the ball into the waiting goalkeeper's hands. It was very subtle. As the whistle went up to my mouth my AR's flag went up. Nice. We both saw it, even though it was very quick. In fact, the goalkeepers coach made lots of noise about the call. Sorry coach, we got this one right. It was an example of perfect position as well as solid team work. You have to like that. Check out US Soccers position paper on this very issue.
It's really easy to get lazy when you are an assistant referee, isn't it? Some games just coast along without much for you to do. It's easy to allow your attention to drift elsewhere. Sometimes you don't run quite as fast as you normally might in a particular situation. I had 2 reminders this weekend of how important it is to run a ball all the way to the goal line. Both times, the attacking team took long shots that were on goal. In one situation, the keeper deflected the ball down to his feet, only to have it roll toward the goal line. He fell on it, but too late. I saw it cross the goal line and immediately brought the flag up. The second time, the keeper had the shot come right at her, but it was moving so quickly she caught it in her hands and turned toward the goal. In this case, I was right on the goal line. When she turned, the entire ball was over the goal line. Goal! I'm glad I wasn't sleeping on these.
On the first day of the tournament, we had some thunderstorms roll through. Did you know US Soccer has a position paper out on weather??? Neither did I. I found it accidentally. Check it out. It's worth reading since we will often be in a situation where we have to watch out for the safety of the players as well as our crew. US Youth Soccer has published lightning safety tips on their site.
All things considered, it was a pretty good tournament this year. Last year, we had a couple of send-offs and a few coach dismissals. It was blazing hot as well. This year I put up one caution to a coach (Yes, we caution coaches here. Don't ask.) that couldn't take my warnings for what they were. Other than the incident I described, the other games went very smoothly. It was a pretty good weekend. I even received my first tournament coin. Actually, I have quite a few that have been given to me, but this is the first one I received as a result of working the tournament.


Anonymous said...

The USSF position paper is dangerous, especially regarding lightning. If you can see it, it can hit you. (Longest recorded lightning strike from cloud to ground is over 100 miles.) Heck, it can even hit you when you can't see it. I know would not want to explain to anyone why I let some people die because I was "following the rules". See lightning? Be safe. Suspend the match.

The Referee said...

I think your advice is wise. The advice in the position paper is contrary to what I've seen done at various other youth sport events, like baseball. It seems most others follow the "see lightning, off the field" rule. I don't want to be out there after seeing lightning either.