Monday, October 8, 2012

Missed Call...or not

This weekend, I had 5 league games.  Apparently, being Columbus day weekend, our assignor was running short of referees so we ended it with a ton of games.  It was a nasty weekend too, being cold and rainy.
My state has recently started offering short-sided games for U-11, similar to several other states.  This weekend was the first time I had one of those games.  My current opinion, based on only this game, is that short-sided at U-11 is a mixed bag.  I think the success of the game depends on the teams involved.  Some teams have players that are just too developed for a small field.  Some teams absolutely should be playing small-sided.  This game was played on a smaller than usual small-sided field, so this certainly influences how I feel about it.
We had one fairly major controversy during the game that I think deserves discussion and analysis.  The white teams goalkeeper gained possession of the ball.  He punted down field into blue's end.  Given the field was a little small, the ball bounced a few yards outside the penalty area.  The blue team's sweeper, who was pretty much alone in the penalty area was running back, right shoulder toward his on goal and left shoulder toward the opponents goal.  I was a few yards past halfway, basically in the middle of the field.
The ball came down just beyond the defender and hit the ground.  By my view, it looked like it bounced up and hit him on the side.  He played the ball out of his penalty area.  Naturally, a few of the parents on that end of the field were screaming "hand ball!", which I generally ignore since they scream that every time a hand gets anywhere near the ball.  I glanced over at my AR and she was not showing any flag, although I suspected she had seen something based on her expression.
As I turned to follow the ball, I again glanced over at her and saw no signal.
After the game, I asked about that particular play.  She said the ball had indeed bounced off the ground and hit the defenders palm (sort of like a basketball dribble).  We didn't really have time to discuss it further as we were preparing for the next game and already running late.
I thought about this event on the way home and came to a couple of conclusions.
  1. My position could have been better.  If I had moved a little wider, I might have seen the suspected handling.
  2. I need to improve my pre-game.  I usually make it clear that if an AR sees a "game changing event" that I missed, I want it signalled and they should hold that flag until I see it.  I wonder if this AR was absolutely sure it was deliberate handling.
  3. Based on the description by the AR, I'm not convinced it was deliberate handling in the first place.  We are talking about U-11 and a ball that may have bounced up and hit the hand, rather than being deliberately handled.
I guess this event should serve as a reminder for us all.  Things happen when you least expect them to happen!  This defender was all by himself, playing a routine goalkeeper distribution.  Also, make clear to your assistants how you want this sort of thing handled (no pun intended).  Personally, I want to make the right call and I expect my assistant referees to flag infractions that they feel I would have called had I been able to see it.


Doug Rutter said...

I recently got some feedback on my positioning from an experienced referee. On punts & goal kicks I usually position myself centrally and allow the ball to pass over me as I look for the players near or beyond the center circle battle for the bal.

The assessor encouraged me to go further back to position myself parallel with where the ball would likely land. I found this put me in a much better position. (I also was running my butt off!)

The Referee said...

That's good advice. Generally, I do the same thing. You are always better off watching the ball come down from the side. You don't want to be looking at the players backs. In this case, it was nearly impossible to get to the left side of the field because it was so small. There was a bit too much traffic where I needed to go. I probably should have moved left across the field as soon as the keeper controlled the ball.

LBprGuy said...

First, good advice from Doug Rutter here. I should look to move parallel as he notes.

I'm in my third year as a rec ref and we do have small-sided U12 games. A couple thoughts here.

- I hear from our head refs all the time that, for the most part, handling at this age is not deliberate.

- If the defender is truly all alone, yards away from another player, all things considered (skill level, weather, etc.) unless it's a blatant slap-down of the ball with a hand, I might just consider this trifling anyway ... the opponents are not being disadvantaged by this play. I might rule it differently if there were opponents challenging for the ball or in the immediate area. But that's the "let the players play with minimal interruptions" school of thought, which how I think we're supposed to ref. (Or as I say to parents when I talk about refereeing, Americans are used to refs penalizing every foul they see, but it's not like that in soccer.)

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, deliberate handling is the most over-used call in all of youth soccer (which may account for your AR's expression). It is true that parents (and coaches) go crazy at the smallest contact but odds are it was not deliberate.

Also, consider if the player had a reason to deliberately handle the ball. Probably not since his keeper could have just as easily gotten the ball. This point was made in Evans and Bellion's book The Art of Refereeing

My instructions to my ARs for the younger less-skilled teams (including U13) is to only call handling if it is very obviously deliberate (and to ignore parents and coaches).

Thanks for your blog posts.