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.