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.
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.