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.