Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekend of Soccer - Part 1

A Day at the Girls Tournament

I spent Saturday this weekend at a local tournament.  This was the weekend for the girls.  As some long time readers know, I tend to favor the girls game somewhat.   In my opinion, the female players focus on playing the game, not on going after each other or yelling at me.  Of course, there are exceptions to that rule...and I found 2 teams that define that exception.
The day started out well.  Our schedule started with the U-13's and 14's for the first half of the day, then we went to the 16's and 18's.  In total, we had 8 games and 4 referees, so I ended up doing 6 games with 2 in the middle.
As I get more experience, and move closer to upgrading, I find I'm far more confident in the middle, especially with the younger ages.  Much of that confidence comes from really knowing the Laws of the Game.  If you want to be a better referee, know the Laws backwards and forwards!  Anyway, my first game in the middle went very well.  I felt like I had total control and that we did a really good job.  The players got a completely fair, well officiated game, and that's what it's all about.
During one of the games I was an AR, we had an incident that really illustrates how important it is to constantly make eye contact with one another.  In the afternoon, we had the U-18's.  The game was a well played game with some rough contact being had by both teams.  Generally, there was nothing terrible, just aggresive challenges.  There was a challenge for a ball around halfway on my side of the field, right in front of the parents.  The attacker was facing her own goal, waiting for a ball to come down.  A defender came in from the side and slightly behind, challenging for the same header.  The defender jumped into the attack quite aggressively and knocked the attacker down.  My view was of the back of both players and I put the flag up right away.  The ball went out of touch on the play, but the middle did whistle the foul.  The parents went nuts!  The attacking players went nuts!  The challenge was pretty rough.  Unfortunately, at that moment he chose to engage the parents in debate, not seeing me pat my pocket like a wild man trying to get him to issue the caution.  We talked later and he admitted to being distracted by the parents.  Try to remember in your games that the parents really are inconsequential.  You are there for the players and the players only!
Later that day, I had my 2nd middle.  It started out as a really well played U-16 game.  It was physical but not overly so.  The white team went up pretty quickly, 2-0.  Frustration was brewing on the blue side.  I was getting some dissent, resulting in one caution in the first half.  
Because the game was physical, I made an extra effort to always be close to play and to make sure my view on the play was good.  I think the biggest problem that started to develop was the parents were getting into it.  I've noticed that parents of female players seem to be more sensitive to physical play, even though the players seem fine with it.  Toward the end of the 1st half, there is a challenge around halfway, just inside the touch line on the parents side.  A defender slid in on an attacker, getting the ball with one foot and the defender with the other.  The ball goes out of play, but I whistle for the foul from 10 feet away.  The parents go absolutely crazy.  One guy in particular is really giving it to me.  I'm not sure what was going on there.  Like I said, the game was tough, but not out of control.  He was ridiculous enough that I told him to leave and made it clear that we were not restarting until he did.  Now, I'm well aware that referees really don't have authority over spectators, but the parents don't really know that so off he went.  I think the parents got my none too subtle message.
At half time, both of my AR's stressed that I was doing a very good game.  Their thoughts were it was just two emotional teams, playing a tough game.
In the 2nd half, blue starting clawing there way back.  It was a constant struggle back and forth with every call resulting in moaning.  Again, I can't stress enough how you must be keeping up with play to sell your calls in games like this.  Eventually, blue goes up 3-2.  White ended up getting booked twice in the 2nd half.  Both times were reckless challenges, resulting in cautions for unsporting behavior.  I'm sure much of it was frustration with getting beat.  
Naturally, the game ended with controversy.  With about 1:30 left, blue put a through ball in on white's goalkeeper.  The blue attacker chased it in and I knew a collision was likely.  The keeper kneeled down and covered the ball with the attacker about 3 feet away.  She tried to pull up, but ended up falling over the balled-up keeper.  This was not a foul but merely two players challenging for the same ball.  The keeper got injured (slightly) so I called the coach out immediately.  Wow, did I get some emotional outbursts from the 'keeper's team mates. Time was running out while the coached tended to the player.  The tournament rules did not allow for added time.  Since they were down by 1, they were not happy.
On a positive note, one of the dissenters during the game apologized right afterward.  She came over and shook my hand and said she was sorry for giving me a hard time.  I told her to forget about it.  It's all good.  Interestingly enough, the coaches never got involved.  The emotional stuff came strictly from the players.
I guess if I can pass anything on from this experience, it would be a couple of things.  First, try to ignore parents as best you can.  If they become a problem, deal with them unemotionally and quickly.  Second, be on top of play.  It sells calls and helps with outbursts.  If you are having trouble with this, improve your fitness.  Finally, when you feel like you are getting stressed from the emotion going on around you, do whatever you have to do to calm yourself.  If you are calm and confident in your abilities, you will control the situation and have a better game.


Anonymous said...

Why can't I get games like your second middle? When things like that happen to me, invariably the coach comes out and is more concerned about giving me an earful than tending to his injured player.

In terms of dealing with parents and coaches, I try to think of it like this. . .
- Nothing good can come from the coach engaging the referee. After all, when's the last time he got a referee to change his decision?
- Nothing good can come from the referee engaging the parents. Doing so only makes you seem defensive. The only time to engage a parent is to send them away.

The Referee said...

I have to agree with you. The more I think about it, the more surprising it was. This was a very emotional game. Usually, emotional teams will get their staff started, or emotional staff will get their players started. In this case, the coaches were silent. Odd.
I totally agree with your sentiments regarding coaches and parents. In fact, I often tell my ARs to avoid all but polite greetings with parents and coaches. Any kind of engagement almost always results in problems. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt.