Saturday, March 28, 2009

Upgrade Class

I attended my grade 7 upgrade class today. I'll get all the drama out of the way: I passed both the written and fitness tests!
On the fitness test, I managed 1.61 miles in the 12 minute run (otherwise known as a Cooper Test), 33 seconds in the 200 meter and around 8 seconds in the 50 meter. I was pleased with those times. The requirements for my age, for this upgrade, were 2000 meters on the Cooper test, 40 seconds in the 200 meter and 9 seconds in the 50 meter. For those of you interested, you can find this information in the Referee Administrative Handbook, available from US Soccer.
I was really surprised by the number of guys I saw struggling in the fitness test. There were about 25 of us in the class. As I was going around the track, I noticed about 5 guys that I was pretty sure were not going to make it. I have no idea what their finishing distance was, but I'd be really surprised if they didn't have to retake the test. I find that kind of surprising because, if you know are interested in an upgrade, and you know there is a fitness test, why would you not adequately prepare for it? More importantly, an upgrade implies you want to do higher level games. Fitness counts a great deal as you move up.
I was very pleased with my results on the written test. I scored a 99%. I misread the only question I got wrong (duh!), otherwise, I could have had that elusive 100%, but in the big scheme of things, I'm OK with that. It was an incredibly stupid mistake, but I'm happy I passed. Unfortunately, one of the guys I have worked with did not pass. In listening to him talk about what went wrong, it became obvious to me that, while a seemingly knowledgeable referee, he has not read/studied the law book in a long time. In fact, after the test, during a break, I was looking something up in my copy of "Advice to Referees" and he asked me where I had found that book! Again, like I mentioned above in regard to the fitness test, if you are interested in upgrading you must do everything you can to prepare. Getting past re-certification is not enough.
Perhaps the information I keep referring to is not obviously found on the US Soccer site. There is a Referee section in the US Soccer Store. In that section, you will find various publications. I strongly encourage each and every one of you to buy the following:
  • Laws of the Game
  • Referee Administrative Handbook
  • Guide to Procedures
  • Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game
You should absolutely have all of these publications. You should read and re-read each of them. You should have them in your bag at all times. Trust me, you will be a much better referee because of your effort.
Going back to the upgrade class, we went over several of the 2009 Directives. In particular, we spent time on "Contact Above the Shoulder" and "100% Misconduct: Tactical and Red Card Tackles." We went through an exercise were we watched video clips and had to indicate on a worksheet foul/no foul and the type of misconduct, if any. I did really well no the foul/no foul section, but apparently I need some work on misconduct identification. For the most part, I'm too lenient, but it some examples I was too harsh. I have to concentrate more on improving my skill in this area.
We received a really good presentation on the directive for "Free Kick and Restart Management." I can see why emphasis has been placed on this topic. How many times have you seen a player conveniently tie their shoe in front of a ball during a free kick? I love that one. In my game, that one doesn't even get a warning. That is an instant caution. Be sure to review all of the 2009 directives. There is good information in these documents that will help you on the field.
Here's a good tip I picked up during this discussion. When you go to a ceremonial restart, you are to tell the kicker to wait for the whistle. You hold your whistle up, and point to it while saying the words. We were warned to hold the whistle at eye level and never above. Why? Because holding it over your head could cause observers to think you are indicated an indirect free kick! That would not be good, so be careful with your "wait for the whistle" mechanics.
Now I have to prepare for assessment. The day after the class, my assignor (who is trying to help me prepare) gave me a U-19 boys game, along with two fine ARs. After completing our 2 preliminary games, we got together on the side of the field. I gave them my best pre-game, which they thought was pretty good. I checked in the first team and then, while walking over to the other team, I noticed really ominous storm clouds. Uh oh. Sure enough, just as the other coach got done passing out the player passes, we saw lightning. We went into "clear the field, 30 minutes" mode immediately. You guessed it by now: We never started the game. We even had a little hail within the 30 minute wait period. I hope this is not a fore-shadowing of my upgrade process. I have another U-19 boys game scheduled for next weekend, so we'll see how that goes. I think I may ask for the assessment in April. If anyone has good assessment tips, please leave a comment and let me know.

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