Monday, February 23, 2009

More Great Games

Yesterday, I worked another set of US Soccer Development Academy games. It seems these games are always scheduled in pairs. The clubs have 2 teams; one U-16 and one U-18. From what I gather, they play games within a pretty large area. In my case, the drive time radius for the teams can be up to 6 hours! If you are doing that, you are playing some serious soccer.
The first time I worked these games, I was the last guy at the field, so I made a point to show up earlier this week. It turns out it still wasn't early enough. I met up with the referee for the U-16 game. I was honest about being new to these games. It turns out he's a grade 8 as well, but he's been doing games for much longer than me. So I guess it's all about experience, not necessarily about your grade. Anyway, he pointed out that I should plan on getting to any US Soccer game at least 1 hour before game time. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that my assignor didn't send me a list of things to do for these games, but that just goes to show you that you are ultimately responsible for yourself. Since this referee was empathetic to my position, I was sure to ask him some other things that I was trying to figure out regarding administration of these games. Always use a willing resource when you find one!
Our third crew member, and also the referee for the U-18 game, was really late. I thought perhaps he had some other games going on, but I didn't hear him mention an excuse. I was a little disappointed by that as this is a State Referee. I guess I hold those guys in pretty high regard, given there grade. It turns out he's a really good referee. I learned quite a bit from watching him work. Both encounters show that the badge doesn't necessarily tell you everything about the referee.
For those of you that live in warm climates, I'm jealous. Wow, the weather was brutal for these games. The temperature was fluctuating in the mid-30's and there was a howling wind coming through the stadium. Not only that, but we had periodic showers and snow showers. Yes, we were in shorts. You don't do these games in warm-ups. Actually, you shouldn't be doing any games in warm-ups. You know it's cold when your teeth are chattering incessantly while you are running the line.
It's interesting to note that I felt far more comfortable this week than last. It seems that your brain needs a game or two to adjust to a higher level. I experienced that when I first started (doing short-side U-little games) as well as when I did my first couple of games at U-15 and above. This week, I didn't feel like I was barely keeping up with the game. I think I did a pretty good job. I was a little early on an offside flag, but I was still correct. I got all my directions right without getting "direction stupid." I even started talking to the players a little bit when they were in my area. You do talk to the players, right? I've noticed the referees at this level will often admonish the players when they are doing wrong, but not wrong enough for a whistle. You'll frequently hear things like "knock it off over there" or "hands down gentlemen!" I mentioned this in my last post, and I'll mention it again because I think it's important. As an AR, you can help the middle with things like "Red #5, get off his jersey!" It warns the player and let's the referee know where he should be looking.
I'd like to, once again, make a few comments about being a good Assistant Referee. Too many referees do not take the role or AR seriously enough. I've seen that, at the upper levels, a good AR is invaluable. Being a good AR doesn't just mean getting offside or ball out-of-play right. It's the little things like taking initiative and getting the game balls squared away for the referee. Making sure the referee has everything he needs while doing check-in (put a spare pencil in your pocket). Do you make sure your uniform is neat, clean and up to par before going to the field? That makes the crew look professional and garners respect. During the game, you must be on your offside line at all times. Coaches, and players, at the higher levels will call you on it if you're not. You must watch everything at once. You must pay attention to the other AR when the ball is away from your half so you can mimic his or her signals as necessary. You must watch the players when the referee is otherwise occupied (ie, talking to a specific player, dealing with substitution) so if something happens, you can report facts. Next time you are an assistant, try to think about all the ways you can make yourself useful to the referee. It is appreciated and only helps to build your reputation as a quality official.

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