Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why do they call them "Free Kicks" anyway?

I managed to have a 3-game day last weekend.  I was on a crew with 2 young referees.  Both did a fine job.
Generally, I try to offer new referees some help with things I notice during a game.  It is usually along the lines of "You're doing a great job.  You might want to keep an eye on..."  Some new referees are not willing to hear this and completely ignore it.  If you are one of those guys, realize it is a team effort.  Any feedback for improvement is useful.  You can accept or reject input from other referees.  That's your choice, but do so at your own peril.  Most referees have something to offer you for improvement.
It's frustrating when other referees are not following the rules of the competition, or the Laws of the Game, for that matter.  It makes life more difficult for everyone. I understand we often do games from several different leagues and many different tournaments.  How often do you actually read the rules of the competition?  As a referee, you often work your league games for the same league and assignor for many years.  Do you try to read the rules for your league at least once a season?   You must!  Leagues are always changing rules in very subtle ways.  Every week, I will hear things from coaches related to these rule changes.  In some cases, the rules did not change.  However, last week's referee is getting the league rules confused with some other league or tournament they have worked.  For example, the league I work has slightly different rules for throw ins in the short-sided games.  Players get one retake for a foul throw before the ball turns over to the opponent.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had coaches tell me that "last weeks referee" didn't do it that way.  I re-read the rules of the competition.  This is how our league wants to game played.  Go, right now, and download your league's rules.  They are usually found on the leagues web site.  Give them a quick read and follow them to the letter!

I had some interesting issues with free kicks in a U-14 boys game.  In the first 10 minutes, I called a foul at mid-field.  As a side note, I am one to encourage quick free kicks.  I will often point to the spot of the foul and start moving away, keeping my eyes on the attackers in case they want the ceremonial free kick.  In this case, as I'm moving away, 2 defenders set themselves up maybe 6-7 yards from the ball.  The attackers take the kick, but as they do, one of the defenders lunges forward, blocking the kick.  I immediately stopped play, signaled for a retake and cautioned the players.  Some thought that was harsh, but there is this from "Advice to Referees:"
On the other hand, when the attacking team has exercised the option to restart play quickly and the opponent closer than the required distance moves toward the ball and performs an act that makes a difference in the play, such as blocking the kick, that player has committed an offense that must be dealt with firmly in accordance with the Law. After the referee has cautioned the failure to respect the required distance, the original free kick must be retaken as required by Law 13.
Clearly, we are to caution this behavior based on this writing.
Later in the game, I had a very similar situation.  In this case, it was a delaying the restart as the attackers never tried to put the ball in play.  The player (from the same team incidentally) was maybe 5 yards from the ball.  As the attacker started to run up for the kick, the defender stuck his foot out. The attacker pulled up.  I whistled and tested the player for his ability to identify the color yellow.  Turns out he saw it just fine.  I was a little surprised the lesson had not been learned, but they are 14 year-olds.
Speaking of free kicks, I had a situation that you coaches out there might want to consider.  A red attacker came free around halfway.  He dribbles straight in on goal.  The goalkeeper comes out to meet him just outside the penalty area.  The attacker attempts to flick the ball over the keeper as the keeper slides in front of him.  The keeper does make contact so I call the foul (yes, I considered DOGSF.  Too far out in my opinion), point to the spot and start moving away as the attacker looked like he would go quickly.  He's caught the defense napping.  He puts the ball down, takes a few steps back...and his coach tells him to wait!  Wow!  This was an easy goal.  The keeper had not moved back into the goal quickly.  The attacker would have just kicked the ball into the net.  From a referee view point, this is why we encourage the free kick. When you award a free kick, get out of the way and see if the players want to go quickly.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

The majority of referees don't read the rules period. Or if they do, they don't focus enough on the important parts (like Substitutions and Player Cards / Rosters) that every league does differently.

I work a fairly competitive Women's league, former college players from habitually highly ranked NCAA D1 teams, and I'm stunned at the number of referees that apply the typical sub at any opportunity, or even NFHS substitution policies, but not the ones of the league. This is just one example, as pretty much every other league (including the local premier youth one!) has these sorts of issues with referees.

The more serious teams even test the referees on these points, comparatively trivial to be sure, but it goes a long way towards establishing your control if you know the rules of competition cold, I suspect it's just laziness that people don't read them.

Re: your U14 game: I'm not certain why you cautioned both players in the first example (I would've done only the player that interfered for FRD) but, this is the age group where a very strict disciplinarian approach seemingly works best. In your case I wouldn't have given a warning either for such a flagrant disregard of the LOTG. Here's your yellow colored plastic for being stupid, which is what most of my cautions boil down to seemingly (please nobody write that in your misconduct report though!).

USSF doesn't have mandatory cautions, as a result I think we tend to hide behind that a little often on these details. What works in the younger, older, and even adult matches seems to break apart in U14. Stupid I know, but I manage that particular age range (U13-U15) markedly different than I do my other games. Also U14 is really the major transition period in terms of attitude, and newer referees coming up from U10-U12 age ranges aren't as familiar as handling these incidents as you, or even I am.

You're no longer a junior referee when it comes to lower youth leagues, eventually both the kids and the referees will learn just as we both did. :)