Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Season Starts

Well, as predicated, it was an exhausting weekend. However, it went much better than I had expected and I feel really good about my performance!
I did 17 games this weekend, including 6 middles. Yes, I know, it's a ton of games.
Too many games?
Some readers really blasted me for accepting a tournament that schedules so many games for a referee crew on a single day. A few mentioned not doing "justice to the game." I was quite surprised by the reaction.
The only thing I can say is this. I understand where you are coming from but realize that, in this state and this area, if you are not willing to do both days of a tournament, you don't work. Most tournament assignors will favor the guys that want to do both days. My choice comes down to working...or not working. I choose to work.
Would I rather work 5 or 6 games instead of 8 or 9? Of course. However, since this was not an option, I chose to work instead of staying home.

This is exactly the reason I argue for increasing one's overall fitness. I did notice that, at the end of the both days, I was fresher than my crew mates. Some of that is age, but much of it is definitely overall fitness.
Generally speaking, the 2 days went really well. The weather was wonderful. The field, being turf, was perfect. The guys I worked with were pleasant enough. The coaches and players behaved themselves. The only downside to the weekend was the combination of game schedule and tournament rules.
The tournament specified that playoff games need a winner and the winner would be decided by 2, 10 minute, "golden goal" periods and then kicks from the mark (KFTM). We had 4 playoff games on Sunday and 2 of them went all the way to KFTM. This put us approximately 1:20 behind schedule. Our last game was schedule to go off at 7:25pm but didn't start until 8:45. That made for a very long day.

Mr. Nice Guy

One of the guys I worked with was a "Mr. Nice Guy" referee. In personality, he is genuinely a nice guy. Being a referee is somewhat of a social event for this type of official. Nice guy referees tend to make the law up as they go to fit their view of what is just and right on the field. Unfortunately, I believe that referees with this type of personality are a bit naive to what is going on around them. They see the positive side of everything and fail to be cynical of events on the field. Don't be that guy.
Our rotation put Mr. Nice Guy in the middle for a U-14 boys game. I knew one of the teams had a very aggressive style of play and the game could end up being challenging from a match-control viewpoint.
Sure enough, the game started getting a little chippy. I had a very aggressive trip occur right in front of me, about even with the top of the penalty area. I looked Mr. Nice Guy in the eye and patted my pocket as this was obviously cautionable. He waved me off with a big smile! Oh boy. 4 minutes later, another player from the same team put an even more aggressive tackle on an opponent. The players nearly went to fists but I intervened using a very light and firm tone of voice as I was close to them. I separated the players, directing the offender toward the referee. I think he realized he had to show the card on this one, and he did. I'm not sure this incident would have happened had Mr. Nice Guy realized earlier the temperature of the game was rising.
My most challenging match of the weekend was a U-14 boys game between one of the better teams in the area (red) and an up and coming challenger (white). It turns out the game had some meaning as it was a "must win" game for red to win the tournament. The game was scrappy from the kick off with the teams fighting for every ball. I pushed myself to be on top of play as much as possible as it was obvious I was going to have to be firm and make quick decisions in this one. I had some firm talks with a couple of players after hard fouls and managed the game without resorting to cards for some time. I did show one caution in the game as a player on red didn't get the memo. It was an exciting game that ended with the weaker team (white) managing a draw.
During the second half, red's coach start complaining about calls a few times. After the 2nd or 3rd time, I held play at a restart and ran to within 10 yards of the bench. As the coach started to speak I held up my hand and said "Don't say anything. I'm asking you to behave yourself in the technical area. If I have to come over again, I will dismiss you." I then ran back onto the field and started play. I didn't hear another word from him. It turns out the assignor was standing behind the benches at the time. He later came by and said that I had done a great job of handling the situation and he would use the example to other referees.
I did have one call I made this weekend that might be of interest. I actually made an "impeding the progress of an opponent" call! I never thought I'd actually make that call. We had a through ball go across halfway and head toward the opposing goalkeeper. The goalkeepers team mate followed the ball in, closely followed by an attacker. I noticed the defender actually look back at the attacker, change direction into his path and then run a quick zig-zag pattern in front of him. The ball was 20 feet away. I didn't think I'd see an example of this, but there it was, right in front of me.
I made an interesting discovery this weekend. Dunkin' Donuts has a drink called a "Coffee Coolatta." It is truly a miracle of science! It's kind of an icy, coffee drink. There must be a ton of caffeine in those things. I had a large during one of my breaks. I was razor sharp for 2 or 3 more games. Good stuff!


Geoff said...

At least in my experience most youth league referees aren't anywhere close to the conditioning required to do a two hour half marathon, let alone a four and change full as you posted in your blog a while back.

I wouldn't worry about the peanut gallery in this case, and I agree with you completely that increasing fitness is an extremely worthwhile goal for any referee.

The Referee said...

Thanks for you comment. I think some of the athletic challenges I undertake are a little over the top relative to what is necessary to be a good youth referee. That said, I think decent fitness is absolutely required to do a decent job on the field.
One would think that average weight and fitness levels for soccer referees would be much different from the general population. I suspect the numbers are closer than one might guess.

Geoff said...

I think even a cursory examination of many referee associations would support your assertion. Also the average age of experienced referees continues to increase... it's harder for me to get into shape than it was half a decade ago when I was last serious about my conditioning.

I don't think it's remiss for even a serious recreational referee to be physically active several times a week outside of refereeing... sadly lack of fitness is showing on the field to the point one local RA has mandated every grade 8 member referee pass the grade 7 physical or they won't be assigned games by said referee association.

In my case I simply remember what I demanded from officials in terms of performance when I played competitively... I'm trying not to be a hypocrite in that regard :).

Mark said...

Good comments on the 'Nice Guy'. I've experienced several of them myself. I used to be amazed at their cluelessness but now it usually evokes an 'geez, not again!'. Maybe I'm just getting jaded in my old age. As far as speaking/managing the coach, I wouldn't tell him that I would dismiss him as that paints yourself into a corner. I'd just tell him that he's been warned and leave it at that. If he continues his behaviour, then dismiss him otherwise he will sit on his bench muttering under his breath so that you can't hear. This behaviour could have a worse effect on the players attitudes and playing styles.

Anonymous said...

When I was in shape, I did was scheduled for 8 games on Saturday at a tourney. (Break between #4 and #6 disappeared when in mid-hotdog I was asked to do another middle: So, I did, hotdog in mouth for the first few minutes. Hey it was my break!) I had four more at that tourney on Sunday, plus two league matches on Sunday afternoon, followed by actually *playing* in a match later on Sunday. Good thing I played keeper. My feet hurt so bad that every time play went to the other of the pitch I was on my hands and knees to take the pressure off. Never again!

Jared said...

I can understand doing multiple games in a weekend for tournaments. When you have an abnormal amount of games scheduled, most areas do not have enough referees to cover with just 2-3 games a piece. As an Assignor, I try to limit the amount of games my referees do each weekend, especially if they are doing the older age divisions, but when tournaments come around, they are usually shortened games and we try to mix them up, so that 1 crew is not doing all of the U18 Boys. After doing, a couple of the older games, the younger games are almost like a break. As far as the fitness, I agree and we have implemented a Fitness Test for our High School Referees Assoc that is not required, but you won't be given any of the more competitive games or Centers, unless you take and pass the exam each year. You have to be in shape to keep up with the play, otherwise it's hard to sell the call from the other end of the field!!