Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 State Cup

I had a really interesting weekend at our State Cup.  I came away feeling very good about my performance.  The last time I was there, I didn't do well.  I feel like I made up for my previous poor showing.
I had a schedule of 3 games on Saturday:
  • 4th Official on a U-17 boys Semi-final
  • Referee on a U-16 boys Semi-final
  • AR1 on a U-15 girls Semi-final
On Sunday, I worked as
  • an AR on a U-15 boys final
  • an AR on a U-16 boys final
I have made an observation about our State Cup tournament.  I'm not sure it holds true for other states, but I think I'm correct in evaluating ours.  Teams often have problems related to misconduct when they get to the semi-final and final rounds.  In my state, the games before semi-finals are played at the home team's field.  The referees are selected by the local assignor.  The semi-final and final games are played at a central location and the referees are selected by the state committee.  Teams are accustomed to getting away with misconduct and irresponsible behavior in the technical area during their league games as well as the early state cup games.  I have seen it with my son's teams.  However, when a team arrives at the later games, they are getting referee crews were hand selected for their experience and high caliber of officiating.  Generally speaking, misconduct does not go unnoticed.
As a youth soccer referee, we don't often get to work as 4th officials.  The position can be really boring...or really challenging, depending on the teams and their behavior standards.  It gives one a great opportunity to use one's man-management skills.  It is not easy if you are not used to it.  When team staff are starting to get out of control, the 4th official must apply whatever skills they have to distract the attention of the individual to them and away from the referee.  The 4th official must be a calming influence.  When necessary, the 4th official must apply the "Ask, Tell, Remove" policy.  Some teams are accustomed to screaming and yelling in the technical area (see the above paragraph).  It sure is a rude awakening when they discover they have a crew that won't tolerate abuse.
My U16 semi final went well.  I thought I did a really good job, and the assessor seemed to agree.  He had a few things to point out, but they were tips for improvement, not "you got this wrong."
One of the lessons I want to impart here is that sometimes, teams just don't come to play soccer, even at a game as important as state cup.  One of my teams did not come to play (white).  It was obvious from the first whistle.  We had overly physical, cynical play from the start.  Again, perhaps this team was used to officials that let this sort of thing go.  I am not one of those officials.  The first half was an exercise in management skills.  The first few rough tackles were reward with a one-on-one conversation about how that sort of thing was not going to be tolerated.  Those conversations were followed by a caution.  By the end of the first half, I had already had one conversation with a previously cautioned player that started with "Please don't think for a second that I won't give you the 2nd caution..."
I had a conversation with the crew at the half and expressed my concern we were going to have a tough 2nd half.  The overly physical team was down 2-0 and already had 2 cautions.  They had little to lose so the game could go either way.
It turns out I was prescient.  Early in the 2nd half, we had a tackle or two that resulted in more conversations.  About midway through, one of the previously cautioned players started with very vocal dissent.  He received his second caution (after having been talked to twice before) and his second off.  This cooled the temperature of the gamed noticeably for some time.  Oddly enough, when the team started concentrate on the game, they had more success.  The game eventually got to 3-2.  White was still in the game.  Late in the game, one of white's forwards felt he had been fouled  (he clearly wasn't) and I expressed my disagreement.  White responded with an abusive statement.  I stopped play and sent him off immediately.  As a referee, you must be willing to make the tough decision.  It is not about being "hard" or "tough."  It's about enforcing the LOTG appropriately in order to make the game more enjoyable for all participants!
There was a funny incident related to the send off.  While I was writing in my notebook, one of the opponents asked me what I had sent the player of for.  I told him what the player had called me.  He said "I don't think that about you at all Sir!"  I had to chuckle at that one.
As I mentioned, the next day I had a couple of AR assignments.  The U-15 game was a tough one!  Not so much for me, but the referee.  He had 7 cautions and 4 send offs.  Yes, you read right...4.  One each for Serious Foul Play, Denies a goal scoring opportunity by foul, second caution and abusive language.  The abusive language was after the final whistle.  The player approached the referee and screamed all sorts of profanities at him.  For a moment, I thought he might be physical with him, but it didn't happen.  It was a tough game, but I thought the referee handled it as well as he could.  Again, sometimes, teams don't come to play.


Anonymous said...

"Late in the game, one of white's forwards felt he had been fouled (he clearly wasn't) and I expressed my disagreement. White responded with an abusive statement."

Could this card have been avoided if you had not "expressed [your] disagreement"? Shouldn't your non-whistle and then moving away from the situation be enough? Let him gripe and moan, but stay on the field - obviously if he screaming or chasing you around the field arguing that is a different situation.

The Referee said...

I would totally agree with your approach in most situations. However, in this game, that ship had already sailed. This was not the first words I had heard from this particular player. My response was along the lines of "No, Nothing there!" It was not by any means a conversation. Excellent feedback.

Brian said...

For our State Cup (and President's Cup for that matter) the group and playoff rounds are all held at the same central location - which could be the home complex of a particular club. That being said, after the first weekend at State Cup it was mandated that there would be a 4th ref at all games for technical area management (we didn't always have a 4th ref during the 1st weekend).
You seem to encounter more profane dissent than I do. I wonder if the players play HS soccer during the HS season. NFHS rules have 'zero' tolerance for profanity - even if you drop the eff bomb out of frustration, if it is audible, that is an immediate send off, no questions asked. A lot of our older players also are involved with HS soccer, and I think that rule tends to keep profane dissent in check.