Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Good Day at the College Showcase

I worked a really nice college showcase over the Easter weekend.  Going into the tournament, I wasn't sure how it was going to work out.  I had come down with a nasty cold earlier in the week and it was unseasonably warm.  I was very concerned how I was going to hold up.  Fortunately, for whatever reason, I did not get assigned on the Friday of the tournament so I only had one day to worry about.
As is the custom at this tournament, we received our field assignment upon arriving at the facility.  I was put with three very experienced referees, one of which I had worked with before.  At these higher level tournaments, it's always good to be with a quality crew because you can learn so much and expose yourself to other styles of game management.  Always be an observer when working with others. You can sort out the good and bad, but it's all good for your experience.
We had eight games scheduled for the day.  Someone likes me somewhere, because I was again scheduled for one of the bracket final games (in this case, U-17 boys).  After running my first two games on the side, I decided I felt decent (not great) and I'd make it through the day without passing out on the field!
As I mentioned earlier, I was working with quality officials.  The thing I noticed is how their game styles differed.  One guy had mechanics that were very, very crisp.  It was almost like he was used to working games in large stadiums where you have to be a little more theatrical with your mechanics so they can be seen from distance.  Also, he was very (maybe overly?) polite to everyone on the field.  I'd very much like to see him do a very physical, nasty game to see if he operates the same way and keeps that persona.  I think he might.
Another of the guys on the crew was very particular about things on the field.  He was bordering on "Blade of Grass Syndrome."  Kicks had to be taken from the exact spot of the foul and he called some things I thought were trifling.  That said, both of these guys were quite successful.  It shows you that different styles work for different officials.  I think you have to find your style that works for you.  It's helpful to see others work to discover your own personal style.
As is my nature, I go find my teams about 25 minutes before game time.  Remember, in a tournament, you almost never have enough time between games.  Most of the tournaments I work allow about five minutes.  In a four person rotation, you should be off right before you're in the middle, so there is no excuse for not having your teams checked-in and ready to go as soon as the current game is completed.  I collect the passes, make a cursory inspection of players equipment, remind the coaches about the duration of the halves and the tournament substitution procedures, collect a game ball and do the coin toss.  When the current game is done, we are walking onto the field.  The only thing we have to wait for is the two assistants to get some water and we're ready to go.
My first middle of the day developed into a decent game.  The two teams played well and it was a competitive match.  It was a one-goal differential most of the match so my decisions were critical in that they could effect the outcome.  At one point in the game, we were heading toward white's goal.  I was about 10 yards out from the left side of the penalty arc, almost directly behind the attacking player, heading toward the left corner flag.  As the attacker crosses the penalty area line, he is halted by two defenders, standing about four feet apart.  They kick at the ball.  The attacker takes an obvious (to me) dive to the ground, rolls over and holds his arms up as if to say "Did you see that foul?"  Every match has that "moment of truth" decision.  This one was easy.  I yell "Get on your feet!  I'm coming back to you!" as the ball heads toward the touch line.  The ball is played out and I immediately caution the player for Unsporting Behavior (simulation).  The funny thing is, as I'm writing the details down, one of the attacker's OWN TEAMMATES sidles up next to me and says "Sir, that was the worst dive I have ever seen."  Having not been fooled by the simulation, I felt like I had earned the respect of the players.
During one of the games were I served as an assistant, we had a serious injury.  A player was fouled (careless trip, nothing serious).  When he fell to the ground, he apparently separated his shoulder.  He was down on the field for some time, being dealt with by the tournament medical staff.  In a situation like this, it is important to note all the pertinent facts on the game card like the time of the injury, the player's number and any associated misconduct that might have occurred.  Leagues and tournaments have insurance for these situations.  If a claim is made, your game card will be used to validate the injury occurred on the field, during play.  Don't forget to file a complete game report!
The last game of the day was also my last game in the middle.  It was the final for the U-17 boys.  From the kick off, I knew this was going to be a good game.  Both teams moved down the field like gazelles, which was not good since I was just getting over a cold and I had already worked five games.  Fortunately, I'm the kind of person that can gut it out and go hard anyway.  It is one of my strong points.
Given the importance of the game, both teams were trying to get every call they could.  I think I did a good job managing the flow of the game by being very selective with fouls.  Neither team seemed to mind and played through the trifling stuff.  I met the occasional appeal with a quick word and moved on.
I will often attempt to manage players with a few words or a formal conversation before I go to the cards.  I find this to be effective in most cases, and this game was no exception.  The game was well under control through the first half.  In the second half, things got only slightly warmer and a caution at mid-field for an off the ball shove quickly calmed things down.  The push occurred almost right next to me as I was getting wide to see play, which had moved toward the goal.  A red defender shoved a white attacker while red was playing the ball in white's penalty area.  I blew the whistle for the foul and showed the red player the card.  Red's coach yells out to me that I can't move the ball all the way out to mid field for the foul!  WHAT!?  I didn't expect that from a fairly high level coach, but you hear it all when you are a referee.
Late in the game, white is down by a goal and playing hard to get the draw.  Red gets through at mid field and dribbles to the top of the right side of white's penalty area.  He beats the defender, and turns in toward the goal.  He is then tripped from behind.  Let's see:
  1. Defenders to beat?  none.
  2. Direction to goal? check.
  3. Distance to ball?  check.
  4. Distance to goal?  check.
Off went the defender.  He didn't seemed that surprised and neither did anyone else.  After the game, the coach unexpectedly said he agreed with me on the decision.  You don't hear that often.
I felt like I had a couple of really good games.  Lately, I have felt like my experiences over the last few years are really starting to pay off and I'm doing some solid officiating.  That's a good thing, but I won't lose sight of how quickly that can change.  Thanks for reading.

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