Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Week in Review

If you haven't done so already please read the MLS Week in Review for Week 35. It's really important to keep up with the information US Soccer puts out there for two reasons. One, its going to make your games go more smoothly. Two, when you go to out of state tournaments or even get assessed here you'll be expected to be aware of the policies US Soccer has put forth.

This WIR was a good one since it touched on some subjects we talk about quite often:
  • Offside Position... but is it punishable? The merit of waiting to see what's going to happen pays off in the clip. This lesson is not just applicable to MLS matches! This is something we can and should be practicing on a weekly basis. Remember the only time you want a quick(er) flag is when there is a good chance there will be contact between an attacker and the goalkeeper.
  • Hey Ref! Handball! Well, I guess I should handling. But you never hear someone shout the correct terms. In the clip we see how players can be very coy in their handling. Funny that the same topic that will spur a 25-minute near shouting match at the yearly clinic is also a point of discussion at the professional level. Some things never change, I suppose.
  • 100% Misconduct. In the early days MLS was criticized for being overly aggressive. Referees probably would've been nervous to give a caution within the first five minutes of the game. Oh, how things have changed! So take note of the fact that the time on the clock has no bearing on whether or not you punish misconduct. Deal with it; because you don't want to see more of that later in the game, right?

One of the things I enjoy about the Week in Review is the addition of videos. Experience comes from seeing something over and over again, so that we can instantly recognize something and deal with it. Although not quite the same as being there, watching these videos is definitely a good thing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fitness: Got it? Don't lose it!

The season is officially over for most of us. The final, last minute make-up games are completed and we've probably all put our gear away for the winter. You deserve some time off after some of us averaged over 70 games for the fall season (some of us, more). But don't kick your feet up just yet.

Think about the beginning of the season... were you sore and tired? Now be honest with yourself: Do you think you were in the best shape? Or did you have to cut a few corners on several games until your legs were back under you? We all have the tendency to get lazy during the off-season which only makes it harder to get back into shape. So instead of hurting for the first two weekends of the season try adding a little fitness to your winter routine to keep what you've worked hard for during the fall.

It only takes a little bit of effort to at least maintain the fitness level you had during the peak of the season. Taking time to workout three or more days a week will mean that you are all ready to go when the season gets started in February (or earlier if you travel to other tournaments). Try a few of these things to have a successful training regiment:

  • Make it fun. If running 3 miles doesn't appeal to you then don't make it your everyday workout. Instead try doing something you enjoy like swimming, skiing, cycling or taking a brisk hike. Incorporate your workout into a group activity so you are more motivated to stick to your plan.
  • Prevent injuries. Staying in shape will help you prevent injuries at the beginning of the season but if you're not careful your training could cause an injury. With colder temperatures around its critical that you warm-up properly. Frank Serianni recommends this great article for tips on how to keep your muscles limber.
  • Make a plan, stick to it. Setting goals for yourself throughout the off-season will focus your effort and make you more likely to stick to your plan. Training for a specific event, like a road race, will give your work a purpose. There are some great websites out there that will give you events locally that you can participate in.
Overall just try to keep your feet moving one way or another during these winter months. If you know of other soccer referees in your area get together and make a training plan. I know that it is much easier for me to workout in a group. Plus, they can bug you to come on out when you feel like staying inside. This downtime is also a great time to brush up on your knowledge of the Laws of the Game or catch up on old Week in Review articles on US Soccer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photo from Development Academy

from L to R: Jair Marrufo (TX), Orion, Ben Warren (OR), Baldomero Toledo (CA), Ricardo Salazar (IL, now CA). Jair is on the list of 38 remaining candidates to officiate in the World Cup in 2010, and Baldomero refereed the MLS final.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Check this video out!

Here's the video from the USA vs Brazil game I did this weekend. Click here to watch. Make sure you have selected the DA Ref Spotlight on the righthand side and then hit play.


Development Academy - Winter Showcase 2008

Nothing quite like some good soccer in December and no, I'm not talking about those ASL make-up games.  

Orion and I are blogging this from the Burbank Airport in California on our way back from a long weekend of games.  We both enjoyed ourselves and got to learn a lot with some of the best referees in the USA.  There was a lot of driving done as we flew into Burbank, the hotel was 40 miles away in Valencia and the fields were 50 miles from the hotel in Lancaster, CA.  Whew... One nice thing was our hotel accommodations: 

The long weekend started with an evening meeting.  There were a lot of "big names" in the room; Brian Hall, all four of our professional referees, Kleinaitis, Tamberino and many others.  The meeting ended with Brian Hall giving a great presentation on "Referee Best Practices". This touched on ensuring the safety of the players while maximizing playing time and the entertainment value for the fans through risk taking and flow.  

The next morning started early with several matches.  In between games we had a nice area to relax, eat and even watch games that were playing on the various big screens.  I took advantage of the great minds at hand and picked the brains of a lot of referees.  Seeing all the different management styles and techniques really helps with my own style.  The atmosphere was much more casual than, say, youth regionals.  However, the games tended to be much higher quality and demanded your complete attention and effort.  

Today (Monday) was the most difficult day.  We had a meeting last night which ran kind of late and games started at 8:00 o'clock this morning.  Most people had three games and I was no exception.  All three were back to back with a U-18 center at the end.  I made it through it without incident and Orion and I made it to the airport in plenty of time for the plane.  

For me the best part of the trip was the interaction with other referees and assessors.  Although everyone gave a lot of feedback it was always geared towards making you better, not just ripping you to shreds.  I got to be assessed by Terry Vaughn and Dave McKee, both great people to talk about your game with.  But most importantly it was just fun to travel and see some amazing soccer firsthand.   

Orion's Report:

This has been quite an exciting weekend of soccer!  I was very happy with my assignments, and felt that I had a very good performance overall.  Some of the higher points for me over the weekend were being assessed by Scott Weyland, a former FIFA assistant referee, and refereeing the U-18 match between FC Dallas and Nomads who tied 3-3.  By far the most exciting match however was the international friendly between the U-17 U.S. National Team vs. Brazil, which I was selected to AR.  The match was televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.  The atmosphere was amazing as the field was lined with fans with TV cameras and microphones surrounding the field.  The game was centered by Jason Anno from South Texas, who handled the intense match like a pro.  Brazil won 2-1 in the most exciting game of my career thus far.  

The past few days has also been a great chance to catch up with some old friends from around the country.  This was my second Showcase and it was by far the best. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Test Question Incarnate

How many times have you been taking the yearly exam and stumbled across a question that seems strange? You know that one that seems so outlandish and you think to yourself: "I'll never see that in my game." That may be true but usually those weird questions are written to mirror a real life event. I can't remember if its the State or the regular test that has a question similar to the situation below but its not something you see everyday.

Watch the video here and then come back and post a comment as to what the restart is and where the ball will be placed. Think about it and remember the answer since you might actually see this happen. Alright, that's probably a small chance but it could still be on a test.

Oh, and for those that have seen this already at the training session (yes you, Clayton! Haha...) don't cheat and answer it since you know the answer already.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Law 11

It is one of the simplest laws in the book but time and time again FIFA lists this as a point of emphasis. It really isn't as easy as it seems sometimes. If you haven't come across this tool yet, click away.

Interactive Offside Guide

This is a great refresher and helpful even for those "veterans" out there.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Training Session

we have some exciting news to share! The SRC will be hosting an intensive training session that will coincide with the 2nd weekend of the Gaylord Shepherd tournament. This is open to new referees with a focus on youth referees.This is not limited to referees in Albuquerque area; we will help referees from outlying areas with travel and lodging expenses. This is a great learning opportunity for anyone looking to advance. If you would like to participate or nominate someone please email me.

We also need people to help in the mentor role. If you can assist let me know.

More details to follow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

ODP Championships

For those of you that haven't heard or have neglected to respond...

NM will be sending eight referees to the ODP Championships in Phoenix.  The dates and more information are posted on the Region IV website.  If you are interested in going please send me an email.  

Sending me an email doesn't mean you are automatically accepted but it does mean you'll be in the running.  Many people apply every year and only eight get to go.  Email me with questions. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting the most out of your yellow card

One of the shortcomings of training new referees is that we often don't dive very deep into teaching management techniques. This is no fault of the instructors or even the material; it's hard to fit everything you need to know into the limited amount of time given. That's why this blog is so important. We gave you the basics in class, now you're out in the real world and maybe it's not too easy sometimes. So I'm going to talk about some "higher-level" techniques to help you out. Remember to take from this only the things that apply to your game. Don't try to add too many new things to your toolbox too quickly. If you have questions, ask! So here are some tips about Getting the most out of your yellow card from US Soccer.

Getting the Most Out of Your Yellow Card

The referee’s response to a foul or act of misconduct must match or exceed the severity of the player’s action. In other words, the more severe the act of the player, the greater importance the referee should place on ensuring his actions/response send a message that the behavior displayed by the player will not be tolerated. The message the referee sends must not only be received by the player for whom it is intended but also to the other players, coaches, and spectators. An effective message that matches or exceeds the situation is the most effective tool in the referee’s ability to “draw his line in the sand.” By “drawing the line in the sand,” the referee provides the players, coaches, and spectators with measurable and visual evidence of what is acceptable behavior in that game.

The referee who merely relies on the issuance of a card (yellow or red) to send messages is a reactive official – an official who does not use his personality to prevent the next foul. Referees need to manage the game with their personality by picking the appropriate method of managing or dealing with a player.

Remember, the best referee is the referee who is seen and heard when the game requires the referee to be seen and heard.

Generally speaking, there is a continuum of referee actions needed to ensure that the referee’s response matches the severity of the offence. Top level referees find ways to send messages aside from using the whistle. They also utilize down time (when the ball is out of play) to connect with players. Often times the connection can be positive communication and encouragement. And give consideration: In response to every misconduct situation, referees do not need to reach for and display a card immediately. At certain times, a calculated and diligent approach to the issuance of a card is best.

By slightly delaying the “card” or “no card” decision, referees give themselves valuable seconds to assess the situation and to consider the action in context of the game and in context of the player who has committed the infraction. During this brief pause, the referee can make eye contact with the ARs and/or fourth official if needed to get their perspective. This almost inconspicuous pause can lead to more thought out decisions versus reactive decisions based upon emotion.

The following is brief overview of three important referee responses on the continuum:

    • Quiet word - During the run of play, referees can have a quiet word with players. This allows players to feel the referee’s presence prior to the referee blowing the whistle. Additionally, there are some fouls for which a quiet word is an appropriate response by the referee. The referee can run with the player as the player moves to position and during the movement convey the selected message.
    • Isolating the player - Once the referee has whistled the foul, the referee can opt to move the player aside and have a one-on-one conversation. The isolation of the player sends a broader message that will resonate with all game participants and is a visual message to spectators and the media that the player’s actions were not acceptable. By looking the player in the eye, the referee sends a stronger message and can use his personality to convey his displeasure. The “look” (body language) and tone of voice chosen by the referee is important as it must also match the severity of the offense. This tactic also slows the game down and gives the referee and the player’s time to think about their actions. Remember, the referee must always be under control and calm when demonstrating his displeasure and communicating with the players and coaches.
    • Issuing of a card - If talking with the player(s) has not worked, the referee should then consider a stronger message which would be the issuance of a yellow or red card. This does not restrict the referee from going directly to a card should the severity of the offence mandate it. Once again, however, the referee must make sure that the appropriate communication accompanies the displaying of the card. In many instances, the quick isolation of the player while the card is displayed is critical in getting the right message across.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another way to learn...

Countless number of times on my drive home after a match I've review a game in my head. Sometimes you wonder how you could've managed an incident different or handled that problem player a little better.

We all have a lot to learn. Sometimes you can learn from another referee's experience, too. So I want to try something new. If you have a question that comes up shoot me an email. I won't post your name or the specifics of the match, but we can look at the general question and explore the answers.

With a few examples from you I'm sure we can have a weekly topic.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Uniforms - Part 1

This topic comes up a lot and for good reason. We stress the importance of referees wearing the appropriate uniform constantly; how it immediately buys you more creditability, is what is required of us and isn't too difficult to achieve. But somehow every weekend when I'm out at the complex I see several examples of how not to dress. This is not to say that as a group we aren't doing well. In fact I would say we're certainly moving in the right direction as far as the uniform goes. But even a few people choosing not to adhere make the whole group look bad. So today we'll look at a few common questions that are asked regarding uniforms...

"Why do you even bother worrying about uniforms? "

Besides it being our job to look appropriate (remember, you're being contracted by the leagues to do a job) dressing properly is simply a facet of taking this seriously. We have to try to do this job to the best of our ability and that includes looking the part. What do you think when a team shows up two minutes before kickoff with mismatched uniforms and doesn't even warm-up? Do you see how teams feel when we show up without our shirts tucked in and our socks sagging to our ankles?

"Can I wear a hat or sunglasses while I do the game?"

I personally stay away from wearing either sunglasses or a hat no matter what league I'm working with. You'll never see a professional referee wearing a hat or sunglasses. Specifically, under NISOA and NFHS rules referees are allowed to wear "solid black caps" during games. USSF doesn't mention that hats are allowed under the Guide to Procedures. They do make this mention of sunglasses/hats in the Q&A section of the website: "Under normal circumstances its not permitted for referees to wear headgear of any kind." My opinion is that we don't allow players to wear hats and sunglasses, so you should do the same.
[This advice doesn't apply to those who have medical conditions that require them to cover their head or eyes for any reason.]

"Can I wear jewelry when I'm doing a game?"

Just like I said above: If the players aren't allowed to wear something, why should we wear it? The exception, of course, is that we have to wear watches. This isn't a piece of jewelry instead its a tool. Other than the watch I say get rid of the earrings, bracelets (Lance will get over you not wearing the band for 90 minutes) and other adornment items. How can you tell a player to remove the very thing you're wearing?

As you could've guessed from the title of this post we'll break this up into two parts. I know its a dry topic, so let's just fix it so we can move on. Since it affects us all let's take it upon ourselves to clean up our appearance. People may think I'm a little bit of a jerk for asking my AR's to remove jewelry or leave their sunglasses in the bag, but I'm doing it for the good of the group. So let's help each other out and make sure we all look professional out there.

In the next few weeks we are going to be on the look out for referees caught looking professional. If you're one of the lucky ones who gets tagged for dressing right we'll reward you with a prize. So pull up those socks!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dealing with sideline abuse

Sideline abuse is something we all have witnessed, either in our game or another game near us.

For those of you who were at the ASRA meeting this past Tuesday this will be a bit of a repeat. Doug Cotter, our SRA, gave a great speech outlining the issue of sideline abuse, explaining how it affects all of us (specifically our youth and new referees) and calling us to join together and do something about it. The need to discuss this issue came up at the same time a great article featuring Brian Hall was published on Soccer America's website.

If you haven't already seen the article that featured Brian Hall and the issue of Sideline Abuse check it out here. Because I wasn't able to get permission to re-post the article word for word you'll need to click the link and read it on their website. The points that were brought up in that article have been floating around for a while. If you have traveled to out of state tournaments or know someone who has the concept of "Ask, Tell, Remove" won't be new to you. This process of dealing with sideline behavior has been tested with a great deal of success on MLS Coaches. We can learn from the success and hopefully apply the theory to how we control the benches and the fans.

So what is "Ask, Tell, Remove"? Its an approach that we take with coaches or fans to directly address poor sideline behavior. First, you "ask" the coach to refrain from continuing to behave badly. If this step doesn't fix the issue, you move onto "telling" the coach to stop the behavior and that continuing to act this way will result in his "removal" from the match. Hall makes a great point in the interview which is to leave the coach with the decision in his hands. "If you continue to act this way I will remove you from the game. The decision is yours." That way it is clear what the consequence will be. You don't make the choice, the person misbehaving decides to change (and stay in the game) or leave (carry on with the problem behavior). Remember that if you tell them to stop and it doesn't stop you have no choice but to remove them from the game.

Some of you may already be doing this in your games. If so that's great, keep it up. For many of us this technique can be helpful with not only coaches and fans but also players. You can think of the "ask" part as a verbal warning, the "tell" could be a caution and the "remove" is the ejection. But why do we need to address the sideline behavior? I hear a lot of referees comment that they heard a fan using profanity but it "didn't bother me, so I let it go." Or other times they say that we ignore a problem coach because its the best way to deal with it. Maybe you can handle these things in your game, but that's really not the point. The negative behavior is a detriment to the game and has no place in it. No one enjoys someone yelling profanity or shouting at players rudely. We must deal with this and put an end to it.

Local leagues and the Youth and Adult Associations are working hard on fixing these issues. They need our help to control this problem and they will support our decisions. This is not a directive to go out and send-off both coaches for a mere comment. We must work with coaches respectfully to communicate our expectations. If fans are causing a problem ask for help from coaches or a field marshal (if you're lucky enough to have one) if you don't feel comfortable addressing a fan directly. Never try to start a confrontation. Even if you have to dismiss someone, do it professionally. Keep this in mind when you think to yourself that you can handle the abuse coming from the sideline:

Would you want a youth referee to endure the same treatment?

If the answer is no, deal with it. Cleaning up the sidelines will go a long way towards retaining referees. And for any coach or parent reading this, think about your actions and the actions of those around you this Saturday. How would you feel if those words were directed at your child? Stand up and say something!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


They say it's all in the details and in the world of soccer refereeing that is certainly true.

We talk a lot about the "big decisions" that you, as a referee, must make throughout the game. But anyone who watches a great referee perform knows that its not just the big decisions that separate the good from the amazing. If you pay close attention to that referee you will see small actions form a certain synergy that helps his or her game go smoothly. We'll dig deeper into each element in later posts but for now let's just look at a few easy ones:

Manage your assignments. Especially during the fall season we find ourselves inundated with games. You could practically do several games every day if you were so inclined. That makes it easy to forget about a match or double book yourself. Try your best to keep track of it all. If you have to turn-back an assignment do it as soon as possible and always be polite.

Appearance. Haven't we all heard this one before? Then why does it always come up again? Because people still show up looking shabby. This one is easy and does you a lot of good. Just try it, trust me.

Preparation. It shows when you have done a little research about the two teams before showing up. You seem in control when you know what's riding on a game. Having all your gear with you , allowing enough time to show up to the game and doing a proper pre-game gives creditability to you as a referee. Never do a game that is above your fitness level.

Learn. The is a host of information out there. If you really want to do a great job at this you need to become a student of the game. Don't know where to find more information? Reach out and we'll guide you in the right direction. It's great to see that weird situation in the game that no one knows how to handle and then see a confident referee educate everyone on how it should be resolved.

I'm thinking next week we'll take a close look one of the Laws of the Game that can help us focus on the details. Happy Refereeing!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Risk Taking

Have you heard about this one? Many of us who have had the opportunity to travel to tournaments or regularly follow the US Soccer Communications have probably come across this new phrase. What does it mean and how does it affect us?

In reality, although the term is fairly new, the concept has been around for a long time. Risk Taking means using a variety of management techniques to control a match, allow game flow to develop and limit unnecessary involvement from the referee crew. Maybe you've see it in one of the night games at UNM Stadium or on your television. The referee sees a foul, but chooses to "take a risk" and let play continue. Keep in mind this can be very different from calling advantage or ruling that a foul is trivial. Let's take a look at a few clips....

Risk Taking, Clip 1

Risk Taking, Clip 2

Per USSF the first clip was a good example of risk taking. The play continued, players acknowledged the referee's decision to not call the foul and overall the game does well. The second example shows us how its vital to be able to recognize a serious foul, one that cannot be allowed to play through and is not a good candidate for taking a risk.

Now let's take another thing into consideration: The games we do aren't the same as MLS. To many that's an obvious statement, but it cannot go without saying. When we look at examples like those above or read over communications from USSF we need to carefully apply a filter to the advice. There is always a wealth of good information but its our job to adapt the lesson to our situations. Sure you can get away with not calling a foul when you are dealing with professional players and coaches who (normally) behavior in a respectful manner. Now that same foul may get you in a lot of trouble on that Sunday game. Don't let your game get out of control and then tell the Assessor afterwards you didn't call that tackle from behind because you were "taking a risk."

So why do we even bother looking at the higher level matches if they don't always directly apply to our games? As anyone who trains for an activity knows: You have to aspire to be better than where you are now. You learn from those that are above you in ability and even if you can't perform at the same tier now its good to watch it. When new ideas hit the community don't be afraid to use them--just be careful. Perhaps we can take smaller risks, like being able to read a game and understand when you can allow a little more contact or wait that extra second for advantage to develop before blowing the whistle.

It's these little changes that you can apply to your game and make it that much better without having the police get called to one of your matches.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Notice something?

I'm trying my best to keep this website fairly interesting. I know all the training material can be a little dry so that's why 'm trying to shake it up a little. Let me know what you think about the changes.

In the meantime you've probably noticed the new logo. Its nothing official yet, just me playing around with our current logo. Do you like it? Is it horrible? Only one way for me to know and that involves you typing an email. Come on, I know you can....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Disallowed Goal from a Pass Back Violation

Several times in games you find yourself having to make a series of difficult decisions in quick succession. Its easy to get overwhelmed in these situations and make a simple mistake. We've all had that moment in a game where we get flustered and find ourselves making an easy call difficult and then having an even bigger issue on our hands. Let's look at this video and see how the referee crew made several correct decisions, none of which were tough calls by themselves but when put together created what was probably a very stressful situation for the officials. See how they work together and got the decisions right!

Alright, let's start at the beginning. First, they recognize that a "pass back violation" has occurred. Although the pass back to the goalkeeper was a long kick, all the conditions were met for this to be an offense:

  • The ball was kicked (played by the foot) by a teammate of the goalkeeper
  • The act was considered to be deliberate (not a deflection)
  • The goalkeeper handles the ball directly (no interfering play from when ball was kicked)
It's important to note that if the ball had gone into the net despite the efforts by the goalkeeper to prevent this the referee would have allowed the goal (applied advantage). Instead, the indirect free kick was awarded and the referee allowed a quick free kick to take place. The quick kick was allowed because the ball was stationary, near (enough) to the location of the infraction and there was no other reason to slow play down (injury or misconduct). However the player taking the quick kick forgot that it was an indirect free kick and therefore kicked the ball directly into the net.

The referee made quick eye-contact with the AR to make sure there was no contact with the ball before it entered the net and then announced that the goal was not valid. The thing I like most about this sequence of events is how the whole crew worked together. The AR flagged the initial violation, the referee allowed the quick take, the 4th official communicated with the coach and the AR silently told the Referee there was no contact as the ball when into the net. All this teamwork made it easy to get the call right.

So, what is the restart? First one to email me the correct restart will get a prize!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Referee Summit

This past weekend the State Referee Committee called together the "powers" of soccer and we had a great meeting regarding the dire state of refereeing in NM and how that impacts soccer as a whole. Communication is vital for any program to operate properly and we saw this weekend that we have a ways to go to repair the lines of communication. Lots of ideas were passed back and forth by representatives of leagues, associations and various referee groups.

But this is only the beginning.

It's said that half the battle is identifying the problem and possible solutions. This may be true enough, yet it seems the last half of this battle is akin to climbing a mountain. I believe the biggest challenge we face is not identifying the problem - that's easy enough - but actually acting on our plans. We don't always get the results we want but any action is better than none. We have to utilize all the resources we have available before we can ask for more, period.

There was a lot of discussion of who was responsible for fixing the problem. The answer is clear: It's a responsibility shared by us all. Leagues need referees to do their games, state associations need quality referees to raise the level of play across the state and referees need more numbers so we don't burn out doing 80 games a season.

What, then, are we going to do? Its easy to sit back and say "there's nothing I can do as a humble [insert title]." That's just not going to cut it if we want to succeed. So let's continue the discussion. You are the referee community, what are your thoughts? What do you see causing over 80% of our new referees choosing to call it quits in their first year? How can you help? Keep an eye out for future communication as we take action on ideas brought up this weekend. If you happen to get called upon to help please try and do so. Its an investment that will pay off. Because no one wants to have to be doing 4 games a weekend with no AR's, right?

Well...there are a few of you out there that don't mind that but I bet that you sometimes long for a break, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Orion Reports on Youth Nationals

[Orion Stradford was selected to represent Region IV at the Youth Championships. Here's what he had to say about the experience...]

I'm back from the US Youth Soccer Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas. The tournament was from Monday, July 21st to Sunday, July 27th. We all flew in on Monday and met at the hotel to go out to eat. After dinner, the first referee meeting was at 10:00 pm. We discussed the tournament and received our first assignments. The games did not begin until Wednesday, leaving Tuesday for more meetings and the player luncheon.

On Tuesday, Brian Hall instructed us on refereeing with your personality, and using it to prevent fouls instead of solely relying on your whistle, and using your presence and body language while refereeing. One of the newer topics US Soccer is putting forward to referees is the balance of Game Control, Game Flow and Risk Taking. This topic was presented again at Tuesday's training. After the morning training we went to the player luncheon and trophy presentation. It was a very exciting presentation, as the 12 referees who worked last years' finals carried in the trophies. After the luncheon, we all drove out to Burns Park to check the fields. They all looked great and were all approximately 110 x 75.

Finally by Wednesday we'd have our first shot at games. My first match was U 16 Girls, on field #4 in the Center at 9:30 am. It was Sting Royal from North Texas vs Eclipse Select from Illinois. The final was 2-2, no cautions, no problems. A pretty mellow first game. Wednesday's training was at 2:00pm after the morning games. Brian Hall was the instructor again. His topics for this session were proper hydration and nutrition. Two referees had gone down in the heat already from the morning games, as the high temperatures had neared the 100s and humidity in the 80% range.

Thursday's match was another Center at 9:30 am, U 15 Boys, Baltimore Bays from Maryland vs Dallas Texans which the Bays won 2-0. In the first half I called a penalty kick for Baltimore. As their attacker got into the penalty area the goal keeper came out and tried to smother the ball, it began to bounce around with the attacker being able to come up with it. The keeper then swiped at the attacker's legs, fouling him. Baltimore converted the PK. Late in the first half, a Baltimore player was shielding the ball near the halfway line and the touch line. His achilles was raked by the cleat of the Dallas defender, the response being a push to the face which I deemed unsporting behavior (not violent conduct) and chewed him out and showed him a yellow card. In the second half, Baltimore scored their second goal. Dallas had the ball in their own half, and at an attempt to play a long ball, the ball hit a Baltimore player on the arm. My thought was "no handball as the ball did all of the work on that one" and allowed play to continue. The player spotted a teammate upfield, sent him a pass along the ground which he collected, and in one move was able to beat his defender and score, for the final score of 2-0. Needless to say, the Dallas coached were not very pleased at the end of this one!

On Friday, I did two ARs. U 18 Girls, Colorado Rush defeated the Sting from North Texas 1-0. U 17 Boys Ohio North defeated Cal North 2-1. The centers for these games were Dario Urrutia from New York, and Armando Villareal from South Texas. These two referees were absolutely fantastic and I imagine have very promising refereeing careers ahead of them!
Saturday was the first day of Championship Matches, for the U 14s and U15s. I did not receive an assignment for that night, so I was able to go out and just watch soccer for a change!
On Sunday I was assigned a "5th Official" for the U 16 Boys Final. Doug Wolff was in the Center. He is a grade 4 referee from Missouri, and a very good referee. He displayed a very positive demeanor with the players, and yet was authoritative and under control at all times in this match. The U 16 Boys championship was won by the Dallas Texas 2-0 over Cal North.
All-in-all this was a very great experience for me as a referee. It provided new challenges, new outlooks and perspectives on the game, and gave me a chance to make many new friends from all over the country.

Thanks for the report, Orion, and also for doing a great job representing all referees from NM. Its quite the honor and we appreciate all your hard work!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Director's Cup Report

Sometimes you don't know how a tournament is going to go until the last day.

This weekend I found myself in Kirkwood, Delaware for the Director's Cup. I will admit that my expectations were not that high; I still prepared myself mentally and physically to do my best. Boy did I need it. The quality of the games aside, there were many things that challenged the referees.

Weather. Most of us here in New Mexico are used to doing games when its hot outside. However, its rare that we're doing games when there is a heat advisory posted. The temperatures reached the upper 90's and with humidity in the upper 80's to say it was muggy was an understatement. Two referees dropped, one of whom had to be hospitalized. This stresses the importance of preparing by hydrating for a tournament. If you wait until the first day or even the night before you often are not ready.

Concentration. Sometimes its easy for us to be on a match that isn't the most challenging and lose focus. This leads to costly mistakes that not only impact the players (who are doing their best) but also the way you're rated. This applies to us here at home, too: when you are doing a match do your absolute best. While sometimes you may not feel like its the most important game of the day, the players deserve your best performance. Work hard and it will pay off.

Cooperation. I found myself in a few situations that felt awkward during the game, mainly because I had never worked with the other members of the crew before. If you are planning to take your game to the next level you have to be able to work well with others. In my case luckily there were no problems encountered but it reminded me how important it is to cover details in your pregame. When you're home and working with someone you do games with every week you can anticipate what they'll do. When its someone new (and this can happen at home, too) you need to talk it through before the match so you can avoid miscommunication.

Overall the tournament was a good experience. It was nice to "network" with other referees and see how they call things in Region I, II and III. I think everyone who attended learned a lot and certainly broadened their horizons. My helpful advice to you is when you go out of state to work a tournament always try to build relationships with other referees. Not only is it fun to interact with other people who share your passion but it also will open doors to future opportunities.

Finally, the adage that someone is always watching rings true. This weekend I saw that hard work pays off and often times in ways you wouldn't imagine at first. NEVER be discouraged and "give up" on a tournament. If you put in the effort you will be rewarded. Trust me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Far West Regionals

It was an excellent year for NM Referees at FWR 2008 in Hawaii. This year we brought eight referees (Matt Presser, Marc Laws, Amanda Forletta, Orion Stradford, Mark Merritt, Clayton Merritt, Matthew Morelock and myself) as well as one assessor (David Vehar). All of the crew did very well and we made a strong showing; three of the eight were assigned to final matches and two will be going to national tournaments.

Special Congrats to those who got finals:




Orion will be going to the Youth Nationals in Little Rock, AR and I will be going to the Directors Cup in Kirkwood, DE. I think we should all be proud of how our referees did. If you happen to see one of the referees from the FWR crew please ask them for some tips and tricks they picked up from Regionals. Also, think ahead to next year - it's never too early to start working on getting noticed for the 2009 crew.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Just got back from the Annual General Meeting for the state association. It was good to meet the people from around New Mexico that put so much time and energy into making soccer better. We identified a lot of areas for growth and I can see that there is a lot of work to be done. Here are my initial thoughts:

*Local leagues each face unique challenges. Some having issues with not having enough adult referees, others have extreme financial hurdles and others need help getting referees registered.
*No matter what the location we simply need more development. Referees must invest a lot of time in order to get better.
*We need to work on better communication throughout the state. The focus needs to be on helping each other get better, not dwell on differences.
*I'll be traveling a lot and hopefully get out to some of the areas that haven't had that attention before.
*Retention is key to having a strong base of referees. If we lose someone in their first year we've wasted an investment of time and money. The longer referees stay the more experience they have to help them deal with a variety of situations.
*Parents and coaches need to step up and help us deal with the serious threat of referee abuse. That's the only way we can keep people around.

Nothing like a good round table to focus our efforts. There is a lot of work to be done but I hope this will be a step in the right direction. We'll continue to build on our Game of the Week and other initiatives to ensure you guys are supported after we certify you.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Only a few weekends left

I'm sure quite a few of you are anxious for the end of the season. This upcoming weekend is the final weekend of State Cup and after that there's only Sandia Cup left. Don't forget to get your availability in to Paul. You can fill out the form at the NMSRA website.

For the diehards out there fear not, there will be plenty of summer games to go around.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Serious Foul Play

We can discuss this later, for now just check out the video:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thank you

A big thank you to everyone who helped out with the Far West Regional League and DCSL games these past few weekends. There were some great games out there and I know we all learned a lot. A few things that I noticed:

  • Pre-game discussions are a vital part of the game. A lot of the "mistakes" I saw out there were related to communication failures. Failures that in part could've been avoided by discussing situations during pre-game.
  • League rules, know them! If the league you're reffing has special rules (such as with FWRL and substitutions) make sure you know them. Also, ask other people with experience for suggestions on how to handle the different rules so that you don't mess up.
  • We need AR's to clean up their signals overall. Don't relax too much when you aren't in the middle, remember you need to look sharp, too.

I have also learned a lot of things about FWRL and our referees. We had the pleasure of some Las Cruces referees coming up to do games and I hope to continue that in the future. I think they learned a lot and we did, too. Remember that State Cup and Sandia Cup are just around the corner. Try to keep working on the details to make yourself that much better! There are going to be some decisive (and therefore challenging) games ahead so stay on top of things.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Referee Ballet

I'm sure many of you have already seen this, but I'll post it again. This has to be one of my favorite videos and to this day it still makes me laugh. Absolutely no instructional value is contained within this video. Well, perhaps it reminds us that we never really know how we look out on the field. Who knows maybe you do some funny things, too. That's why its a good idea to ask your Assistant Referees to give you some feedback every time you do a match. Will it always be good? No. But take what you feel applies to your game and politely dismiss the rest (privately, of course!).

Please note: For optimal playback please ensure you have at least Macromedia Flash Player 7.0+ plug-in.


Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog! There are many ways we can improve as referees in New Mexico and this will be a great place for us to share ideas. The game of soccer as we know it has changed drastically in the past five years; the game is faster, players are stronger and overall its more sophisticated, so we need to make sure and keep up. By staying on top of communications, learning new techniques and sharing our knowledge I think we will all find soccer a little more enjoyable in New Mexico.

Feel free to email me with ideas and topics for posting. I'm going to try and make this as interesting as possible so even those who aren't die-hard soccer referees should be able to read this without falling asleep. Most of the items I'll post about won't be new and I'll always link back to the original author as applicable. Don't make the mistake of assuming I'll be able to cover everything here; you'll still need to keep up to date with memorandums from USSF, local training sessions (ASRA meetings, the annual recertification clinics, et al.) and current documentation such as Advice to Referees.

Finally let me remind everyone that this is all in the best interest of the referee body as a whole. Even if and when we talk about specific game circumstances I ask for respect in all aspects. Don't use this as a way to demean other referees, administrators or any one else. Although we, as a group, are comprised of many different levels of referees it is imperative that we remain cohesive.

See you all out on the pitch!