Sunday, February 15, 2009

Moving up in the World

Upgrade Time

There has been lots of referee activity in the last couple of weeks. First, I got myself enrolled in the state's only grade 7 class for 2009. Every day, I would check the state committee website, waiting for the announcement of the class. As soon as I saw it, I contacted the youth referee administrator and reminded him that I really want to be in the class.
I had spoke with him directly at this year's re-certification, so he remembered me. He told me to send my game log to the committee and they would confirm my eligibility for the class. Some of you long time readers have probably noticed my tendency to document things. I have a nice, neat game log that I keep in a worksheet on my computer. It has columns for the date, time and location of the game. I record the teams, the score, any misconduct in the game, as well as the age level and gender of the players. Well, my record keeping paid off. I was able to send that game log right to the committee after the youth referee administrator asked me to do it. I received a reply the next day that I was indeed eligible and I could register. The registration opened up this weekend and I'm in. Even if you don't intend to upgrade, be sure you are keeping good track of your games. It could come in handy. Also, if you are interested in moving up, you need to be your own advocate and speak up. Tell any of the administrators in your state when you get the chance.

US Soccer Development Academy Games

In anticipation of upgrading, I contacted the local adult league assignor in hopes of getting a few games and maybe getting in the middle for a game to have my assessment. To upgrade from grade 8 to 7, you must be assessed. I didn't think I'd hear anything for some time, but much to my surprise, I was asked to work 2 US Soccer Development Academy games.
These are very high level games with U-17 and U-18 boys. Naturally, given my grade and experience, I'm the junior assistant on the games. The funny thing is, to accept the assignments, I had to get a login to the US Soccer game officials site! I didn't even know there was such a thing.
A few days after the first assignment email, I received 2 more. I now have 6 of these games scheduled. It seems these games are played on the finest fields available in the area. In my case, the games are on 2 college campus turf fields.
I worked the first two games today. Wow, these are big time. The first thing I noticed is one needs to arrive early to these games. I was there exactly 30 minutes before the game and both of the other referees were already there checking teams in. One of the guys on the crew is a State Referee (5).
There is a significant amount of paper work involved as these games are limited substitution and records must be kept in regard to what players came into the game and at what time.
I was very glad I had a bag full of new uniforms as it seemed important to the other guys that we match exactly. They took great care in looking and acting professionally. Many of you know how important I think those impressions are when working games. We even did the ceremonial procession to the middle of the field! It was pretty cool.
The games were tough. I've done quite a few U-17 games at tournaments, but these games were very fast and aggresive. You could not lose your concentration for a second. I suspect it will take a few games before my brain adjusts to the tempo. It felt like I was doing my first game all over again. Fitness is absolutely key. In order to stay on your offside line, you must really hustle. These guys can fly down the field, so game fitness is very important. Also, they are not afraid to open their mouths so you must be able to defend your calls with a quick explanation with details like "#12 kept the attacker onside" or "#4 touched the ball AFTER it crossed the goal line."
I got a really nice tip from the other guys on the crew. They suggested that I sternly talk to the players that were getting out of line, but not necessarily committing fouls. For example, they had me say things like "Blue #7, get your arms down!" That way, the middle could keep an eye on the situation and the players relized we are not push-overs and are paying attention. It worked pretty well.
It was truly a great day on the field. I learned some things. I worked with really high level guys and I took a significant step toward upgrading to grade 7.

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