Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Off the Pitch

Steve Schafer, DRA - East

With soccer season taking a winter break, your challenge is to maintain your referee fitness. Waiting until the spring soccer season to workout is a recipe for disaster. What to do with snow on the ground?

Several referees I know downhill ski (or snowboard). While it’s not quite the same cardiovascular wise as refereeing, downhill skiing is still a good workout. Just walking in those boots from the parking lot should count for something. Along with the ski areas, several stores in ABQ rent ski equipment. You should probably take a lesson if you have never skied before. Also, realize downhill skiing is not cheap. Along with the equipment, ski area lift tickets typically cost >$40 for the day.

I do a lot of cross country skiing. While it’s not as fast as downhill skiing, it is less expensive (no lift ticket) and can be more of a workout. A more advanced form of cross country skiing, skate skiing, is a huge cardiovascular workout. Going up the road to Sandia Crest (536), you can ski on the trails starting at 10k, Ellis, or the Crest parking lot. Note, there is a $3 parking fee. REI has information on trails, rental equipment and lessons.

I also do a lot of snowshoeing. I use the same trails as for cross country skiing. Snow shoes today are made of modern materials (aluminum and Kevlar), are reasonably priced (~$100) and are much smaller than traditional (wood and gut) snowshoes. Snowshoeing requires little skill or coordination (that’s why I can do it). You don’t need lessons to snowshoe. Just walk or jog with a wider stance to avoid tripping yourself (okay, some coordination is needed). REI has rental snowshoes available.

Tell me your workout ideas. What do you do off the pitch (besides 12oz. curls) to stay in shape?

You can email Steve Schafer with workout ideas or questions about this article.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This video is a great example of teamwork between the AR and the Referee. Let's look at a few things that they did correctly in this example:

  • Position. The referee is in a good position and close to the point of contact. Although the ball starts to go upfield, the referee makes sure to keep facing the two players who have the potential to make contact. Note that the camera starts to follow the ball. We as referees must keep our eyes on the two players for a few seconds to make sure there isn't contact after the ball leaves.
  • AR Focus. The AR also does a good job to stay focused on the players in front of him. In the case of a long ball and fast break, the AR has to take on more responsibility. Fight the urge to "watch play" and turn your eyes away from players.
  • Eye Contact. Before the AR puts up his flag he makes eye contact with the Referee and assesses if there is a potential for advantage. Should the AR see the possibility for advantage, he can choose to not raise his flag unless there is serious misconduct.
  • Making the Call. When the decision is made that a foul occurred, the Referee correctly acknowledges the AR's flag and stops play for the foul. At this time the AR would communicate with the Referee should further action be needed (caution). In this example, the simple foul is sufficient due to the nature of the contact.
Good work Clayton and Seth!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last One?

The long season got even longer for three NM college (NISOA) referees this past Friday. Orion Stradford, Steve Schafer and myself drove in the middle of the night to Denver for a NCAA match between Grand Valley State (MI) and Northern Kentucky. The game before ours went to overtime and then kicks from the mark, so we started pretty late. By the time we completed our overtime periods and started the kicks it was nearly dark! It was a nice game and great opportunity. Our local 4th Official was nice enough to join us for a big steak dinner before we started another late night drive home. Orion and I had games the next day... talk about dedication!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NCAA Playoffs

Talk about a long season! A good year for NM area college teams means extra opportunities for the local referees. This year Ft Lewis (men and women) and UNM (men) made it to the NCAA tournament. Doing games this late in the year in Colorado can only mean one thing... SNOW!

Bob Croft and myself braved the cold and snow but much like New Mexico weather, this snowy scene was quickly replaced with blue sky and sunshine not much more than 20 minutes after this picture was taken. It was a good thing it stopped because we could barely see the lines!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Games Ahead

As different as MLS is from what we do every week, it is still fundamentally the game of soccer and therefore has some similarities. Many of us are winding down the season and preparing for the last few tournaments before we kick back for the winter. Others are getting ready for the State HS tournament or post-season college matches. Guess what? MLS referees are getting ready for the post-season, too.

Read the Week in Review 31 and see how each referee gets ready. Note that they prepare regardless of whether or not they know they are getting an assignment. Kevin Stott notes that "the idea of continuing to strengthen the referees must continue whether you are directly a part of the match or not." So get out there and provide feedback and, most importantly, support your fellow referees. Try not to be upset if you don't get the final match you had set your eyes on; instead, congratulate those who get the opportunity!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maintain During the Off Season

Seems like it was only a few months ago that the season was just beginning. Well, we are fast approaching the end. With the HS State Tournament ending next week and season play for other leagues drawing to a close, you might find yourself with more free time. Rest will be needed for many of us with injuries but take care not to rest too much.

You've worked hard during the season and established a fitness "base" even if you were only getting fitness from your games. The hardest part of working out is getting past the first few challenging runs where your legs hurt and lungs burn. Don't lose that base! Taking the time to exercise a few times during the week will ensure you are ready to go next year. Try some of these tips:

  1. Balance some recovery time with your workouts. With as many games as you've likely done this season you need to have a few off days.
  2. Mix it up. Add some bicycling, hot yoga, swimming or another low impact workout to your routine. Lifting weights can help strengthen your muscles and prevent injuries. Plus, don't different activities makes working out more enjoyable.
  3. Find a friend. If you find a workout buddy you're more likely to get a good workout and actually get out there to do the workout. Motivate each other to work hard!
  4. Set a goal. Maybe you want to better your fitness test results from last year or just feel better at the beginning of the spring season. Whatever it is, set a goal and work towards it.
A little work during the off season will pay off next year! If you are looking for some workout ideas geared towards soccer referees, click on this link. On Page 7 you'll find the article Fitness Workouts to Increase Speed and Endurance by Greg Dugas.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Focus on the Basics

This time of year is busy for almost all soccer referees in New Mexico. Aside from our personal lives, there is a virtual overload of games to be covered between August into early November. Youth and adult league games, high school and college games demand a lot from the limited referee pool we have available. As if that wasn't enough to worry about we also have a lot of newly certified referees hitting the pitch for their first set of games.

All those factors create a tough environment for us all. What can we do to make sure we're at our best?

Manage Time

This is especially important if you referee more than one league. Make sure you do your best to plan ahead of time so that you can honor your assignments. Communicate conflicts quickly and work to avoid them by setting "blocks" with your assignors beforehand. Remember, you can't perform at the top of your game if you are doing four games a day seven days a week. Balance recovery time and make sure you see your family once in a while!

Prevent Injuries

If you feel an injury coming on get it taken care of. Continuing to work games when you have a minor injury can cause it to get worse. Remain hydrated and eat right to keep your immune system running smoothly. If you have an injury or illness, talk with your doctor and take some time to rest if needed. Taking an assignment when you're injured and not at 100% is a violation of our code of ethics as referees.

Get Feedback

This one is important for both our new and returning referees. Make an effort to get feedback from your peers after every match. If you're new, talk with your assignor to see if someone can watch you on a game and mentor you. If you've been doing this a few years its still a good idea to have some mentoring, especially as you start to do higher level games than you have in the past. For example, if you've never done a Varsity game but have one coming up, ask a referee you trust to watch and give you tips.

Give Back

When you get the opportunity to work with new referees make sure to help them out. Think about how you felt when you were new and what would have helped you. Keep things positive but constructive, too. When you have free time there are a lot of new referees doing youth games across the state that could use some help. Contact the assignor and let them know you are willing to mentor or maybe be an AR for a newer referee.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Contact with Officials

It is said that soccer is a "contact sport" and that's certainly true for the players. But is it true for us as referees, too? Unfortunately, there are times when this is true. Where is the line; how much is too much?

Referees should work at all times to avoid contact with players. It doesn't look good for a referee to put their arm over a players shoulder when talking to them (especially to the opposing team). However, not all contact made by players towards an official is misconduct. There are times when a player might pat your back, for example, for a job well done. But there are several behaviors that are not acceptable. Types of physical contact that should never be tolerated is that which:
  • involves force or aggression (grabbing, pushing, slapping, bumping, stepping on feet, and so forth)
  • the official has sought to avoid by moving away and by making a gesture which clearly indicates any further approach is unwelcome (continued pursuit by a player, if performed in a threatening manner, is included here even if physical contact does not result)
  • is initiated from an unexpected direction and unaccompanied by any warning
  • is delivered in a context which clearly includes disapproval, lack of friendliness, or anger
  • restrains or prevents an official from withdrawing from the contact (e.g., by blocking retreat or holding)
By avoiding physical contact with players we can show that we don't touch them, they shouldn't touch us. Physical contact that meets the above criteria would warrant a red card for Violent Conduct. Consider the nature of the conduct and if it met the level of referee assault. Make sure you include all the details of the event in your match report. Although the above criteria apply mainly to players, substituted players and named substitutes, the same concept is true of coaches and staff. Under no circumstances are we to allow coaches to "chest bump" or grab an official on or off the filed.

For coaches in USSF games we would not show the red card for Violent Conduct, unless your league rules specify that you show a card. However, a coach who makes physical contact with a referee would be immediately dismissed for irresponsible behavior and you must include all the details in the match report. If you are doing a High School or College match, however, a card can be shown to a coach and would be shown in this case. Do not make excuses for this behavior. If a coach enters the field of play (not during halftime or post-game) to confront an official we must have the courage to dismiss them!

If an event like this occurs seek input from your AR's or another erferee you respect as to if you need to file a report for referee assault. Take a look at the videos below for examples of inappropriate contact with officials.

Hand Slap

Grab and Spin


To hopefully avoid these situations take the following steps when you see trouble brewing:

  • Take a few, quick steps away (back) from the situation to show that you are not initiating contact. Hold you palms facing outward, close to your chest and use your voice/whistle to indicate further movement toward you is not allowed.
  • Stand your ground once you have created this space (you should not, in most cases, have to run across the field to avoid the player)
  • If the offender continues to pursue contact or the discussion than deal with it in accordance to the action

Week in Review 25

Another WIR is available for your viewing pleasure on US Soccer's website. Make sure to read it and watch the video clips.

US Soccer has begun moving away from the term "Risk Taking" in their game management model. This week they show the altered model and discuss why they are changing the term to Foul Selection/Recognition. I think this is a good move on their part as the new term is more familiar to referees and less confusing. The overall idea, however, remains the same: What fouls you decide to call and when, due to the circumstances of the match.

The latter part of the WIR deals with some recent MLS games where red cards were given that weren't justified. This is an important discussion because we often discuss what IS a yellow card or a red card but forget to mention what IS NOT misconduct. As referees we have to work to set a "bar" for what consitutes a caution or send-off at that level of play. This is a fluid concept that we must always adjust as we progress in the level of games that we do. Even more difficult is the fact that we probably do different levels of games throughout the week and in some situations apply different criteria depending on the match.

How do we develop this standard? How do we avoid giving an unwarranted send-off? First, you must study the Laws of the Game, WIR, USSF Memos and other referees. Understand, for example, the 4 D's of denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Watch video clips to learn what to look for in a Serious Foul Play tackle. Don't be scared to give the card when needed but understand the serverity of your decision, too. But one of the best things you can do is learn from your peers.

Let's say that you have not done any Men's 1st Division centers yet but you (and your assignor) feel that you are just about ready to start. Go and watch a few of these games to get a feel for the speed and intensity of play. Watch how players react to the fouls called (and not called) and pay attention to any misconduct that results. Get on a few games as an AR and talk with the center to see what you need to watch for. This will help you start to develop a working foul recognition and tolerance for that level of play. You'll want to start out calling more fouls for control but will be able to slowly adapt as you are more comfortable with the level. Ask for feedback throughout this process from fellow referees. Also, gauge the player's reactions as you adapt.

Since you have set the bar for misconduct you can act quickly when the situation presents itself with as little emotion as possible. So maybe you'll see a situation like we saw in this week's WIR and say to yourself "all the D's are not present" and keep the red card in your pocket.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Off the Pitch Training

Steve Schafer, DRA for East Albuquerque, talks about more training ideas for staying in shape off the pitch.

Off The Pitch

I’ll bet you weren’t expecting me to write about swimming as training for being a soccer referee. I swim once a week for about 45 minutes. Swimming is a great low impact, total body workout. The upper body does most of the work, but the legs do a lot too. Most of my workout is freestyle lap swimming. I also do a few laps with swim fins to stretch the ankle joint and strengthen the legs. Finally, I finish up with a few laps of breast stroke. The frog kick of the breast stroke really works the inside of my legs, helping me avoid injuries from AR side stepping. Also, my bad shoulder (bike crash) no longer hurts when I raise the AR flag.

I swim at the KAFB pool. I have also swam at several of the city pools http://www.cabq.gov/aquatics/indoor-pools . All of them cost less than $3 to swim. Check with each pool for lap swimming schedules (they usually change during the summer).

A resource I have found very useful is total immersion swimming http://www.totalimmersion.net/ . Their ideas about swimming really simplified things for me. I also recommend their book http://www.amazon.com/Total-Immersion-Revolutionary-Better-Faster/dp/0743253434 .

See you on the pitch,

Steve Schafer

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Refereeing on a Small Field

There has ben much said about the size of the fields at the new APS Socer Complex. From the referees perspective, what adjustments have you made to your game when working on a smaller field?
In my first few games at the APS complex, I have noticed that I have to focus much more on positioning. On a large field, you have a lot more time to read play and decide where to move next. However, on the smaller fields I've found that your decision making must be much quicker. There will only be one small space to move into, and it must be done quickly. This requires you to be mentally focused at all times. Remember the ABC's of positioning as it will definately apply to your games:
A= I can see play and the potential problem area
B= I can see my AR
C= I am not occupying space the player need
Another thing I've noticed about refereeing on smaller fields is an increased use of back-pedalling. On the small field, you need to be close to play because the players are in such tight spaces that there will be a lot more body contact to manage. I've found that the quickest way out of close quarters is to back-pedal out of the situation, instead of using the added time of turning my body away from play and running away and taking my eyes off the ball.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Info for the 2009 HS season

As you may already know, the NMAA has developed a statewide rules interpreters program for all sports for the first time this year. The purpose of the rules interpreters program is to assist our officials in the consistent application of rules throughout the state and to ensure that coaches and officials are on the same page relative to soccer rules. In addition, the four individuals serving as rules interpreters will be the go-to contacts for rules interpretations for our coaches and officials. Their contact information is supplied at the end of this memo.

Our office staff met with the soccer interpreters last week and the group came up with a number of items for clarification and emphasis. They are as follows:

The following procedures will be put in place for lightning disturbances or other weather related issues (NMAA Handbook 7.17.1E):

E. Inclement Weather – If less than one half of the game has been played, the game will be replayed from point of interruption. The head referee should note who had possession of the ball, on what particular part of the field.

Lightning Delay Procedures (Guidelines for Officials):
1) Use the NFHS Rulebook as a guide to implement lightning delay procedures (NFHS Soccer Rulebook 5-3-2e). The head referee shall have authority to suspend play or terminate the game whenever the elements, spectators or other cause require.
2) From the NFHS Rulebook, “When thunder is heard or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location. Suspend play and take shelter immediately.”
3) Adhere to the 30-minute rule before resuming play, regardless of the point of interruption (first or second half).
4) Communicate with host school administration, visitor administration (if present), and with head coaches of both teams as conditions or decisions change.
5) Attempt to finish contests, if at all possible, once lightning disturbances subside.
6) Contests can be delayed up to two hours using the 30-minute rule.
7) After a two hour delay, it is ultimately the responsibility of the game officials in communication with the host site administration as to whether to suspend the contest or extend the delay additionally.
8) Officials should contact Robert Zayas, NMAA Director of Soccer (505-977-5386) or Dana Sanchez, NMAA Commissioner of Officials (505-977-5388) for clarification if needed.

NOTE: The lightning delay procedures (specifically relative to delaying for up to two hours) are for varsity contests only. Sub-varsity or junior high contests are at the discretion of game officials and host site administration.

The tie game procedure for all regular season district and non-district games can be found in NMAA Handbook Section 7.17.1J. It is as follows:

1) If the game is tied upon completion of two forty-minute halves of play, a maximum of two ten-minute sudden victory overtimes will be played to determine a winner. Should the two overtime periods not determine a winner, a shoot-out will be held, in conformance with the procedures in the NFHS Soccer Rulebook, until a winner is determined. This applies to all regular season district and non-district contests held in New Mexico.

2) If the score remains tied after each team has had five kicks from the penalty line:
a. Each coach selects five different players than the first five who have already kicked to take the kicks in a sudden victory situation, the teams kicking in the same order as determined by the coin toss. If one team scores and the other team does not score, the game is ended without further kicks being taken.
b. If the score remains tied, continue the sudden victory kicks with the coach selecting any five players to take the next set of alternating kicks. If a tie still remains, repeat step #3 for regular season contests and other applicable games in which a winner must be determined through a progression.

Clarification on Tie Game Procedure:
1) The only people allowed at the center circle are the five selected to take the kicks from the mark. After the coaches/captains are brought to the center of the field to review the tie game procedures with officials, only the five taking the kicks are allowed to stay at the center. Everyone else retires to their respective team areas after the procedures are explained. After the first round of kicks, if additional kicks are necessary, the first five kickers retire to the team area and the next five come to the center circle.
2) Once it is determined that a team has won and that the other team cannot catch up, no further kicks need to be taken.
3) The coach can pick any players off the bench for subsequent kicks from the mark after the first round of kicks.
4) There must be 10 different kickers for the first two sets of kicks. After the first two rounds of kicks, a coach can choose to repeat kickers from the initial 10 or can choose from his/her players on the bench. If a team has fewer than 10 players, the coach will use five players in the first round and then four new players plus one from the prior round to make the second five.
NOTE: This is a departure from FIFA rules. There is no requirement for the goalkeeper to take a kick from the mark under NFHS rules. If you coach or officiate FIFA and NFHS, please note this rules difference.

As a reminder, it is the responsibility of the head coach to ensure that all of his/her players are properly and legally equipped for each contest. The head coach assumes that responsibility through signing off on the materials on the NMAA District Clinic online. Please note that teams need not be formally lined up for an equipment check prior to games. Clarification on several often asked questions about player equipment is provided below.

1) Splints, casts and braces - If a player is wearing a splint, cast or brace, the coach must have a doctor’s note for that individual. No exceptions! If a player arrives wearing a splint and he/she removes it to play, the player will be disallowed from participation.
a. Shin guards – As a reminder, by 2012, the NOCSAE seal must be stamped on the shin guards.
b. For Coaches: Shin guards are to be two inches above the ankle (no higher). If players are taping shin guards high, they will be asked to remove them and re-tape them. Failure to comply results in a yellow card to the coach for illegally equipped participants.
c. For Officials: As a preventive officiating tip, it is good to work with coaches on this issue prior to the match. Do a nonchalant check of all equipment, including shin guards, in pre-game and talk to coaches about it then. Address the issue before you have to issue cards, if possible.
2) Jerseys – Players need to start every period of play with their jerseys tucked in and all subs should have their shirts tucked in. As a guideline, shirts shall be tucked in at the beginning of every period of play and subs’ shirts shall be tucked in prior to entering the field.
3) Hair Control Devices – NO bobby pins or metal barrettes and no hard plastic devices are legal. However, if a player is wearing ribbons or other soft hair control devices, if they are not posing a danger to the player or his/her opponent and they are worn as a symbol of school spirit, they are legal.
4) Face or Body Paint– Face paint or other decorative paint is permissible as long as it is not inappropriate or objectionable in any way. If the paint is in the promotion of school spirit and is not unsportsmanlike, it will be allowed.
a. NFHS Rulebook (page 25), 4.2.1 Situation B – Team A appears on the field ready for play with faces and/or arms pained in an objectionable manner. RULING: Illegal. The referee will require that the objectionable markings be removed or covered prior to allowing participation.
5) Items Worn on Players’ Wrists – If a player wears an extra hair band or rubber band on their wrist for their hair, it is permissible. Pieces or yarn or “Livestrong” type bracelets are deemed as illegal equipment.
6) Home Jerseys and Stockings - It is the responsibility of the home team to switch jerseys if the visitor shows up to a game in white. The visiting team has an equal responsibility to wear dark colors, but in the event of an issue, the game should be played and the official should report the incident to the NMAA office.
7) Soccer Balls – If a ball is being used without the NFHS Authenticating Mark, allow the team to play but send a game report to the NMAA office informing them that the balls did not have the NFHS mark.

Dissent can be clarified as comments by coaches, players or bench personnel that contain any one of the three “P’s” – Personal, Provocative or Public. If comments by coaches, players or bench personnel contain any of these elements, the result will be a card for dissent.

1) Emphasis on Player Management – Remember as interscholastic sports officials, you are part of the educational process. Help players and communicate with them about infractions. It is okay to warn a player and explain things to him/her before carding them. This is part of game management and preventive officiating.
2) Pre-Game – In pre-game with coaches, be brief, succinct and mention sportsmanship/Pursuing Victory With Honor.
3) Post-Game – It is okay to wait after the game for a post-game handshake with players. However, use your discretion and leave the field immediately if you believe that the game was problematic or hostile. Always have an “exit strategy” in mind.
4) Facility Issues – If there is a situation that cannot be corrected relative to field markings or other equipment, make sure to file a game report with the NMAA office. You should play the game as long as the field and equipment are safe for all participants.
5) Officials’ Uniforms – As a reminder the Pursuing Victory With Honor patch is the required patch while officiating for the NMAA/NMOA. It can be worn on the chest of the shirt where the existing Velcro is located.
6) Reporting to Coaches Regarding Cautions – Remember that communication is key, however, it is up to the discretion of the referee to disclose the reason why a caution was issued. It is discouraged when the reason is clearly understood. If a coach asks, he/she is entitled to an explanation. As a rule of thumb, legitimate questions from coaches require a response. Statements do not.
7) NFHS Signals – While the prescribed NFHS signals may be helpful to communicate your decisions to players and coaches, they should not be seen as replacing a few well chosen words when a player is clearly confused by a particular decision.

The soccer rules interpreters for the 2009 season are:

Central Region:
Phil Davis
(505) 242-1904
(505) 331-5175
Email: davisp@swcp.com
Orion Stradford
Email: ostrad625@comcast.net

Northern Region:
Joe Fawcett
(505) 672-1767
(505) 469-0624
Email: JJoeF@aol.com

Southern Region:
Nigel Holman
(505) 216-0632
(575) 646-4033
(575) 640-0036
Email: nholman@nmsu.edu

If you have rules questions, you are asked to call or email the individual in your region of the state for clarification and interpretation.

Thank you for your attention to this information. If you have questions or if you need additional information on the rules interpreters program, please feel free to contact us. Have a great season!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Week in Review 21

The latest Week in Review has been released. Read the full article by clicking here.

Most of the discussion was centered on AR Involvement which means when you should intervene and when you shouldn't. US Soccer already put out a great article on this subject which you should already be aware of. If not, read it.

To me this WIR comes down to two main points; participation by the AR is critical to get decisions correct and AR involvement must be at the right moment. Think about a time you were the referee and your AR gave you information that was vital. It made the whole situation work out better, right? Now think about a time when your AR insisted instead of assisted. Was the situation made better or worse?

Being the AR is often time seen as the easier job, the less important job or other negatives. Maybe you thought that you should be in the middle of that "big game" and are pouting about it. Or you just sit back and cruise through a game because you're just the AR. That's not the attitude to have at all. The AR position is a very important part of the crew and your involvement is vital for the success of the team.

Of course, your primary duty as an AR is offside decisions. From there you can expand your view to include assisting with in and out of touch decisions, fouls, misconduct and even player management. Look at the diagram and remind yourself of the area that you need to cover. When there is a game critical situation that's out of the view of the referee you can still make the call, even if its out of your area. But in those situations you need to make sure the referee didn't see it and that your call will help not hinder.

Take the job of being AR seriously and participate when you should. But also think about a time when your AR was over involved and remind yourself not to make the same mistake! Often times we are just providing information to the referee; its up to the referee to decide to call it or allow play to continue. Once you have provided the information let him or her make the final decision. If you still disagree the time to debate that is after the game when you can privately make a comment or two.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week in Review 20

If you haven't found your way over to US Soccer's web page lately you're in a for a pleasant surprise. Well, at least I think it's going to be a pleasant surprise. That is, after you get used to the new layout of the web page.

One thing that is surely welcome is the introduction of another Week in Review. This time, thanks to the new layout, we get to see videos that are of slightly higher quality. No longer are we watching a video the size of a postage stamp! We can now (gasp) even put the video to full screen if we're feeling a little wild. Enough with the sarcasm, just go check out the new layout already.

The WIR for Week 20 looks at several situations that involve various forms of 100% Misconduct. The review is much needed and good to have. However, note the theme in many of the situations. We, as referees, must have the courage to administer punishment when required of us by the LOTG. But we must always be in control of our emotions when doing this. Of course you need to be firm and resolute, but at the same time don't be rude, shout or curse at a player. Demand respect while showing that same respect back to the players!

Look at the referees in the clips. Do you often see the card displayed straight up, high above the head? Not very often do you see the card "flung" towards the the player, almost "in their face." That's because shoving a card in someone's face is, simply put, rude.

So let's continue to focus on being professional out there. I hope everyone is ready for the season to start!

Statewide Clinic

Once again the Statewide Clinic was a success! This year our guest was Sandra Hunt, former FIFA referee. She gave a great presentation to a full room of referees on Saturday. Written testing followed the instruction that day, with the physical testing bright-and-early on Sunday morning. After that there was some more instruction from Sandy specific to Assessors, Instructors and State Referees.

All of the people I spoke to said they learned a lot from the meeting. I know that being able to pick the brain of a referee who has been to the top (FIFA) is a rare opportunity and I never want to pass that up. Even more rare is having a FIFA referee in our own state! I hope everyone who was able to make it had a great time. Those of you who didn't make it, remember that we'll have one of these meetings again next year around the same time of the month. There is never a clinic fee for the Statewide Clinic and Dave Vehar does a great job bringing in "big names" to do the instructing.

If you haven't recertified for 2010 that means the clock is ticking. Keep an eye on the website calendar to see when you can take that pesky test to retain your badge.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Week in Review - Week 19

The latest version of Week in Review is available for viewing on USSoccer.com. You should read up on the full article if you haven't already by clicking here.

While reading up on the events I was drawn to the section on Dissent. For most of us the Fall season is looming ahead. That presents a new, fresh start for many teams. We will be doing a wide variety of matches from youth up to collegiate levels; many with a high level of intensity. Players and coaches are under a lot of pressure to perform so, occasionally, emotional outburst will occur. How to do we handle them? Here are some tips from the article to gauge these situations and deal with them accordingly. The time to set the tone is early on!


Dissent: More than an Emotional Outburst

The 2009 U.S. Soccer Referee Directive entitled "Dissent" outlines several important factors for officials to consider when deciding whether comments/actions from players or non-playing personnel require official sanction or action. There is a spectrum of potential actions and each requires a different response by the referee. Actions can range from “emotional outburst to dissent to offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures.”

Emotional Outburst: Verbal Admonition
Usually a one time factor. It is said and over. Normally, not specifically directed at an individual. A brief, quick reaction to an incident.

Referee Response: Attempt to manage with personality and presence. Send a strong verbal and visual message to the player.

Dissent: Yellow Card
Use the “personal, public and provocative” criteria provided in the "Dissent" directive to determine whether the comments and/or actions were disrespectful to “any referee.” Normally, words, tone, body language and facial expressions which demonstrate a negative and condescending attitude toward a match official. The actions are usually more extended in nature and persistent than those used in an “emotional outburst.” Consider gestures, directed at an official, that show disgust or disrespect. Look for aggressiveness directed at an official.

Offensive, Insulting or Abusive Language and/or Gestures: Red Card
Considering the “personal, public and provocative” criteria, the referee must judge the severity of the actions (verbal and non-verbal). The more aggressive or directed the action, the further up the scale (toward a red card) the referee must consider. Each situation and its context within the game must be addressed and evaluated individually using the “personal, public and provocative” criteria. However, if a player’s or non-playing personnel’s actions exceed the boundaries of the “personal, public and provocative” standards, the player must be sent off or the non-player dismissed.


You can see that we have methods to handle Dissent that don't start with a Caution. Also think how the severity of the player's or coach's reaction compares to the intensity of the situation. A strong reaction may be acceptable during, say, a penalty kick. The same outburst is not acceptable when debating a decision of who gets the throw-in at midfield. Try to keep a level head when dealing with emotional situations to show your control.

As a side note if you have issues viewing the videos on the Week in Review due to the small frame size, you can download the videos to your computer using the newest version of Real Player (download here). During the setup process ensure that you leave the box checked regarding the "download" link in browser windows. Once the program is installed you will then see a Download to RealPlayer link near the US Soccer videos. Once downloaded the videos can be played through RealPlayer and a fullscreen option will be available. Not the best quality, but certainly easy to to see.

Note: Download programs at your own risk! I am not responsible for anything that results from the download and use of any program.

Some of the preceding content is from US Soccer and is subject their Terms and Conditions viewable on http://www.ussoccer.com

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Training While Commuting

Steve Schafer, DRA
Albuquerque - East

Off the Pitch - Bicycling

I ride bicycles a lot. It’s a great way to keep you in shape to referee. The following are some ideas on how to incorporate bicycling into your referee fitness plan.

Commuting on a bike kills two birds with one stone. You get to work and home, plus get a workout during a time you would normally be sitting in a car. You save gas money and lower your stress level by not fighting rush hour traffic. It takes some planning on your part. Planning a route that is bike friendly is the first step (the city has bicycle route maps or I can help). I pack my work clothes and lunch in a backpack, wear weather appropriate cycling clothing (more in the winter, less in the summer), and leave earlier to get to work on time. I really like my end of the day commute as it gives me a chance to unwind from work stress.

I recommend mountain bikes for first time riders. They position you upright and the fatter tires give a more comfortable ride. Put ‘slime’ (liquid stop leak) in the tubes and mountain bikes are almost maintenance free. While you can ride a mountain bike on paved roads, I really enjoy them on the dirt. Mountain bikes make me feel like a kid again, taking jumps and skidding in the dirt. Albuquerque has some great off road trails to ride along the foothills or along the river paths.

Road bicycles are about going fast. Your position is bent over the handlebars (more aerodynamic) with skinny, high pressure tires (less rolling resistance) underneath. If you ride a road bike, you need to carry all the equipment (spare tube, tire levers, and pump) to fix a flat tire and know how to use the equipment. Albuquerque has some great roads to ride on (Tramway, Chelwood, Morris, Moon, Constitution, Comanche, etc.) and some roads to avoid (Juan Tabo, Eubank, Wyoming, Central, Lomas, Menual, Montgomery) on a bike. For a training ride when you have more time, the east mountain area has many quality riding roads.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Hopefully you were able to catch the classic rivalry of Chivas USA vs. Galaxy or, like me, recorded it and watched it later. As I was watching it I put myself in the referee's shoes. You know coming into that match that it's going to be a tough fought match and has the potential to blow up on you. We've probably been in a game like that before. Sometimes I think it is harder to handle a game that you know is going to be hard because you can get overly nervous thinking about the game and make mistakes.

So what do you do? Well if you watched Ricardo, a FIFA referee, in this game he chose to set the tone early on. I was impressed by his communication with the players; especially when I saw his "use your head" gesture early in the match. I could tell the player understood and it was a beautiful way to get a message across to not only the player involved but the whole field. I was so happy to see that US Soccer highlighted that moment in the Week in Review. Make sure to click here to read the whole article.

But you don't have to have that big white badge on your shirt in order to be able to effectively communicate with players. Visual gestures, your voice and body language help you control players during the game. Using these tools properly mean you rely less on your whistle and more on your personality to achieve game control. As we have been saying more game control means you can have more flow through risk taking. Overall this means a smoother game for you, more fun for the players and more entertainment for the fans.

All three of those guys watching your summer league game from the park bench will thank you!

Friday, July 10, 2009


If you are not getting the monthly NMSRA Newsletter and would like to sign up please click this link:

NMSRA Newsletter Registration Form

Also, spread the word to your fellow referees! If someone you know would like to sign up you can give them the address or have them contact me by clicking here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Match Report Writing

Bob Linebaugh, Chair of the State Referee Committee, gives us a great "How To" article on the necessary elements of report writing.

Nobody likes paperwork. But sometimes it is inevitable, especially when a team official is dismissed; a red card is issued to send-off a player; or for referee abuse/assault. It is not only important that you promptly and properly complete the paperwork, it is required. It's part of the referee’s job.

The following information is furnished because it is important and needed to mete out discipline. One of the frustrating things for those involved when it comes to deciding disciplinary action is send-off reports that are poorly written, and don't provide the complete and accurate information needed.

You are to complete and forward to the appropriate authority a report of any send-off you have in a match within 48 hours of the incident. When you are involved with a tournament, you need to complete the report as soon as the match is completed, if possible. Not only is timeliness important for administrative purposes, but the sooner you complete the report after the incident, the better your memory is of the specifics.

Who are the "appropriate authorities"? In New Mexico if it is for referee assault/abuse it is the SRA. First let us define referee assault and or abuse by citing the USSF Policy Manual.

Policy 531-9 -- Misconduct toward Game Officials

(3) (a)(i) Referee assault is an intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee.

    (ii) For purposes of this policy, “intentional act” shall mean an act intended to bring about a result which will invade the interests of another in a way that is socially unacceptable. Unintended consequences of the act are irrelevant.

(b) Assault includes, but is not limited to the following acts committed

    upon a referee: hitting, kicking, punching, choking, spitting on, grabbing or bodily running into a referee; head butting; the act of kicking or throwing any object at a referee that could inflict injury; damaging the referee’s uniform or personal property, i.e. car, equipment, etc.

(4) (a) Referee abuse is a verbal statement or physical act not resulting in bodily

    contact which implies or threatens physical harm to a referee or the referee’s property or equipment.

(b) Abuse includes, but is not limited to the following acts committed upon a referee:

    using foul or abusive language toward a referee that implies or threatens physical harm; spewing any beverage on a referee’s personal property; or spitting at (but not on) the referee.

For a send-off of a player or the dismissal of a coach, know the reason for send-off as dictated by Law 12 of the Laws of the Game. Know the seven reasons for a send-off. Know the difference between Serious Foul Play, and Violent conduct. Use the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" (ATR) and the USSF’s directives by referencing and/or citing them in your report. You can also turn to the "7+7" document for a concise list of offenses for which players can be cautioned or sent-off for. You should print and/or save this document for when you are writing a report (find it by clicking here). A coach or team official cannot be "sent-off", per say, but rather is dismissed for "irresponsible behavior." You would then need to define this behavior in the match report in a way that is easily understood.

On to the report. Very specific information is needed in a complete and accurate report.


Date/Time of match.


League or Tournament

Level of competition


Team Coaches Names

Name of Center Referee

Name of AR 1

Name of AR2

Name of 4th Official

Time of Foul

Name of Player receiving Red Card and that player’s Jersey number.

Reason for Send-off listed under Law 12 of the Laws of the Game.

The final and most important part of the report is the "Explanation" of the situation that created the need for a send-off. What you need to do is paint a picture, with as much as detail as possible, with your words of why the player was sent-off. You need to include when the event occurred, who was involved, how the violation took place, and what was the aftermath of the occurrence. The Disciplinary Committee relies on the information you provide to determine how many games the player will be suspended. If you give the Committee little or no information to go on, then they will be forced to minimize the suspension.

It is not your job to recommend how many games you think the player should be suspended or to decide if it was referee abuse, or assault. Never indicate your opinion on this matter when you complete a report. If you feel as though the send-off was for a particularly egregious foul, for example, make sure the Committee knows what happened in detail and let the process take its course. Simply just give the facts.

Here's a sample of what should be included in an explanation on a referee's report. We don't have space to give you samples of every type of send-off. But make sure that every report you write contains the key elements that are within the following:

"In the 79thminute of play, the Red team was building an attack near midfield. Red player #19 was in possession of the ball at his feet and was looking downfield to distribute the ball. As he was doing so, Blue player #7 (Bob Martinez) tackled Red #19 from behind using excessive force, with cleats up, making forceful contact with the player's calf and clearly endangering the safety of the opponent. Play was stopped, and the trainer for the Red team was called onto the field to treat #19. Mr. Martinez was shown the red card and sent-off for Serious Foul Play (Law 12). Mr. Martinez did not leave the field of play immediately. Rather, he remained on the field for thirty to forty seconds, haranguing the referee concerning the red card. After being restrained by his teammates, he did finally leave the field without further incident. Red player #19 was assisted from the field with an apparent injury to his left calf. After a substitute entered the field to replace the injured player, play was restarted with a direct free kick for the Red team at the spot of the foul. The score was 2-1 in favor of the home team at this time."

Are you able to visualize the event after reading this explanation? That is the purpose of the report, and should be your goal every time you have to issue a send-off. Also, if there is offensive, insulting or abusive language involved in your send-off or referee abuse, you need to specifically spell out what language was used and to whom it was directed. This, again, is important to the disciplinary committee. Include necessary information but avoid unnecessary details ('twas a warm summer day in NM, there were puffy white clouds...)

None of us enjoy sending off players or dismissing coaches. But when you do, it is very important that they be dealt with appropriately and that his or her punishment is commensurate with the type and nature of the offense. Do not leave a problem on the field that will come to haunt the next referee because you did not deal with it! That's why we have reports and disciplinary committees. And it is your job as a referee to do the best job possible in completing those reports. MAKE SURE THAT WHAT YOU WRITE IS LEGIBLE!!! None of this will matter if the committee can't read your writing. If you can type up the document that's even better!

If you have questions now or in the future when you are writing a report please reach out for assistance from a fellow referee or member of the SRC.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

FWR 2010: A How-To Guide

The big thing I'm trying to do with this blog (and the newsletter) is to improve communication. It has been brought to my attention that some people find the selection process for Regionals to be incongruous with other processes in refereeing. For example, the criteria to upgrade from Grade 8 to 7 is clearly listed on the website. Conversely, where can you find the details on how to get selected for FWR?

This is a fair argument and it got me thinking about how to correct this. What better venue than the blog and newsletter? So here in plain text is the process that I go through in making the decision of who is selected for Regionals each year. With that knowledge you can know what to expect if you "throw your hat in the ring" next time around.

  1. Each year there is a Region IV planning meeting. At this meeting it is decided how many referees each State will bring to the tournament. This usually occurs in October leaving several months for the SYRA to plan on who to bring.
  2. Once I have the number in mind I begin to build a list of potential referees. Some of these referees have emailed me their interest ahead of time. Others are referees that are "up and coming" and have been brought to my attention by other referees.
  3. Of the available slots (this year we had 10) two are taken by the Female and Male Youth Referee of the Year candidates. Another slot is taken by your SYRA.
  4. From there the final slots are slowly but surely filled. Usually two or three referees are on a standby list, just in case someone can't make it. Regionals is a big commitment; you must attend meetings, group runs and spend a week of your summer doing games for free. I require a lot of work out of this group.
  5. Although there are no formal requirements, generally we will only take two or three "rookies" to Regionals each year. Priority goes to the younger referees as a general rule, but I can't take Grade 9's.
  6. The list of referees are not just randomly picked by me. The State Referee Committee is involved. I take feedback from Assessors. I pay attention who attends the meetings and yearly clinic. I go and watch possible candidates do games. I email each DRA for feedback on who they think should go.
The most important thing is to let me know you are interested. Although I ask for input from the DRA's for a variety of reasons I don't always hear back. If you want to go to Regionals there is no reason you can't just let me know directly. That ensures that I know your interest right away. Don't be discouraged if you don't end up on the list this year. Keep working hard and it will pay off. So now is the time to start. If you want to go next year please email me for details. NM is hosting FWR next year so we should have more slots open. And keep up the hard work!

Off the Pitch

Steve Schafer, a State Referee and DRA, gives us some advice on how we can stay fit and healthy off the pitch.

My plan is to give you a monthly dose of ideas for doing things off the soccer field to develop/maintain your soccer referee fitness level. Orion is doing a great job leading weekly workouts on Wednesdays (e mail Orion at ostrad625@comcast.net). Here are some additional workout ideas.

So what do you do when you are not refereeing soccer to maintain fitness? If your answer is 12 ounce curls and eating for two, disaster will strike before you know it. Your body will rebel if you go hard Saturday and Sunday, and don’t do anything for fitness the rest of the week.

My latest discovery is Bikram’s Yoga on Juan Tabo (http://bikramalbuquerque.com). A Bikram’s yoga class lasts 90 minutes in a room at 105 degrees F and 40% humidity. The 26 posses help strengthen and stretch your muscles while also helping your breathing. Class sessions are offered in the morning, noon and evenings (see the website for schedules). I have found a weekly yoga session has eliminated all the little injuries I use to get from refereeing. Bring in a copy of this newsletter, and Bikram’s Yoga will give you half off the introductory special ($10 instead of $20).

Let me know if you have any questions! You can click here to send me an email.

~Steve Schafer

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Risk Taking

By now most of you should have seen this diagram at least once. This representation of Game Management isn't really something new; in fact, its a concept that has been around for sometime. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the elements of this model and struggle to apply these "new" concepts in our games. But in reality we are likely applying all of these concepts in our matches without assigning the terms to them. For example, when we choose not to call a trifling foul near midfield to keep the ball moving we have just demonstrated the Risk Taking element. Or when we issue a caution for a player removing their shirt to celebrate a goal (even though its not a "big deal") we are adhering to 100% Misconduct.

Over the next few weeks both on this blog and at the ASRA Meetings (if you live in Albuquerque) we will continue to examine some of the elements of this model. I find drawing the correlations between this model and previous procedures is helpful. Take a look at the clip below and think about Risk Taking.

The Advice to Referees on the LOTG is very clear when it talks about Law 5 and the referee's power "to decide that an infringement is trifling or doubtful and should not be called at all." We see in the video that if the two minor fouls were called that a goal probably wouldn't have resulted (affecting the Entertainment value). So in this case we saw that there was enough game control to allow play to continue (take a risk) and getting more flow in the game. Keep in mind we must be careful when risk taking. Never do we want the player's safety to be endangered or lose control of the match. Watch how players react to the foul being ignored: Do they keep playing? Are they frustrated? Do they look for revenge? Communicate with players to let them know you see the contact, but are allowing them to continue. If you have less game control you will not be able to take as many risks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Keeping with a tradition I started but didn't stick with here is another acronym that is commonly referred to when gauging contact about the shoulders.


The F-I-R-E Principle for Dealing with Above-the-Shoulder Challenges

Actions aimed at the face of an opponent must be dealt with severely REGARDLESS OF THE FORCE USED if the actions are:

  • Deliberate
  • Intended to intimidate
  • Endangering the safety of an opponent
  • Insulting and/or offensive in nature
  • Potentially inciting further action on the part of opponents

The following lists some specific examples (but not all examples) of the manner in which the contact can be initiated are:

  • Use of the backhand
  • Open handed slap
  • A push/slap to the face
  • The jabbing of a finger(s) to the face
  • Grabbing hair
  • Use of a fist

To assist referees in recognizing and properly addressing these situations, the acronym F-I-R-E was provided to assist officials with the identification of elbows that should be defined as red cardable offenses (violent conduct):

  • Frustration
  • Intimidation
  • Retaliation (payback)
  • Establish Territory or Space

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Far West Regionals 2009

The weather sort of reminded us of New Mexico over the seven days spent in Lancaster, CA for FWR 2009. A total of ten referees and one assessor represented NM at this large event. Days consisted of usually 2-3 games, several hours out at the field, evening meetings and later meetings to get yelled at by the SYRA (or given assignments). Even though the days often started early and ended late the group had a good time overall.

Congratulations to those that were selected to attend this year (roughly fr
om left to right): CJ Merritt, Amanda Forletta, Santos Toquinto, Mark Merritt, Frank Serianni, Kerstin Shrader, Oscar Toquinto, Jorge Garcia, Kris Grano and Seth Gilpin [not pictured: Nigel Holman, assessor]. Once again we had a great showing on the final day of games with four of our referees getting final assignments:

Mark Merritt - 4th Official Boys U-12

Oscar Toquinto - Referee Girls U-12
Santos Toquinto - AR1 Girls U-12

Kris Grano - Referee Girls U-18

Would you like to attend Regionals next year? Since the process can be a bit ambiguous look forward to a post giving you the steps necessary to better your chances of being selected. Remember that next year FWR is coming to Albuquerque so we'll have more opportunity to provide local referees!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Change to Procedures

Effective immediately the following changes have been made to the Guide and Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.  US Soccer is suggesting the changes be implemented immediately.  I would suggest that you discuss the following points in your pregame so that the entire crew is on the same page.  Don't worry the changes are miminal and should be very easy for you to incorporate into your game! 

From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center:

A new and slightly revised edition of the long-standing USSF publication, Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and 4th Officials, will become available this month.  Only two changes will be found in the 2009-2010 edition:
  • Page 37 (Penalty Kick, Indicated By The Assistant Referee).  The fourth bullet point has been modified as follows: “If referee stops game, assistant referee first indicates penalty kick by holding flag across the lower body and then begins walking toward the corner flag
  • Page 40 (Substitutions, Referee procedure).  The first bullet point has been modified to be consistent with International Board guidelines mandating the use of the whistle to restart play after the referee has delayed the restart for a substitution.  The revised bullet item now makes it clear that a whistle is required in all such cases.
Until the new edition of the Guide becomes more widely distributed, you are asked to begin immediately in your respective capacities to pass the above procedure changes along to other referees, instructors, and assessors so that they may begin implementing these modifications as quickly as possible.

Some of this information is subject to copyright under the policies set forth by US Soccer.  All use and dissemination is covered under the usage policy which can be viewed at USSoccer.com and all rights therein.  

How to Gauge Serious Foul Play

As a referee commented during the State Cup meeting, there are a lot of acronyms out there in the referee world.  "Aw, man, another one?  Geez there are so many to remember!"  

Regardless of how you feel about them they are here to stay and its important to know what they mean.  For many people suck abbreviations make it easier to remember the concepts.  But according to Wiki:

"Acronyms often occur in jargon. Acronyms may have different meanings in different areas of industry, writing, and scholarship. The general reason for this is convenience and succinctness for specialists, although it has led some to obfuscate the meaning either intentionally, to deter those without such domain-specific knowledge, or unintentionally, by creating an initialism that already existed."

So what this means is sometimes people will constantly throw around the acronyms in order to make others feel "out of the loop" and uncomfortable.  Well, if you can interpret this special language then you'll feel confident, not embarrassed!


Speed of play and tackle 
Intent: to send a message or win the ball 
Agressive nature, lunging with the feet 
Position of the legs; pay attention to both the leading and training leg 
Opportunity to play the ball.  Within playing distance?
Atmosphere of the game. 

The elements of SIAPOA will help you when deciding if a tackle is to be a send-off offense.  Remember that its important to study this concept thoroughly but be able to apply it quickly.  Most of us use information like this to build a "threshold" that is easy for us to recognize.  That's why you don't see a moment of hesitation when a top referee sends someone off for a SFP tackle.  They have trained themselves to recognize such tackles quickly and act with courage.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

State Cup - 1st Weekend

Except for a brief period of rain it was a great weekend for soccer. US Soccer was kind enough to send us Kevin Yant to help with the pre-tournament meeting and give us feedback throughout the weekend. An added bonus was that his wife, Christel (Region IV Administrator) was also able to be with us.

Kevin gave us a great review of the US Soccer Directives on Friday night, as well as review some amazing FIFA training videos. I can't stress enough the importance of knowing the Directives. If you haven't read them already (or just want to read them again) then click here. Saturday night a smaller group of referees meet and we reviewed the games as a group. As a wrap up the group took a FIFA video test for offiside offenses. It was a real eye opener!

Overall we started the tournament off right. There are still some things that we need to work on but we're moving in the right direction. Thank-you for all of your hard work and please keep up the good effort. The games will only get harder as the intensity level rises and players get more tired. We must continue to be at the top of our game!

Check out some of the photos by clicking here. If you would like a full-size copy of any of the pictures please email me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Become a Student of the Game

You're already starting to become a student of the game by reading this. Time to sit back and relax while a select few tell you their opinions? Hardly.

The longer you are a referee the more you realize there is a lot to learn. Even if you were to master the "basics" and memorize the Laws of the Game you still have the Advice, all the USSF Memos, FIFA documents, blogs, books and then of course the all-important experience. I'm sure I have missed some other great sources of information. How about the big one? Other referees!

The point is that in order to do this well you must absorb as much information as possible. Today after a nice relaxing group run (join us next time, by the way) some of the group gathered to have some food and much needed water. The discussion strayed to different sources of data available on the art and science of being a soccer referee. It got me thinking about what being a student of the game really means and how it can really make a difference for everyone who puts a little effort into it.

Start off by taking advantage of the information that's already being brought to you. This blog, clinics throughout the year, monthly meetings and peer/assessor feedback on the field. When you have some free time read up on the Laws of the Game and the Advice to the Laws of the Game so that you have an integral grasp on the foundation. Check up regularly on USSoccer.com and read the memos, watch the videos and listen to the Week in Review. Maybe you have some other sources for info, too, like blogs or other publications. Go for it!

Then its time to take it to the next level. Ask around and see what some upper-level referees are doing to delve deeper. I'm sure many of them can give you some reading suggestions and maybe even let you borrow one of the titles. The more you learn and apply the knowledge you've gained the better you will become. You might just find being a student of this subject is strangely addictive.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Five brave souls faced the cold, wind and a little snow to get some training in today. Not only is it a good opportunity to slip in some group fitness it's also a great time to socialize and learn from your fellow referees. Between sets of sprints today we talked about some game situations and possible solutions.

It's also important to attend these training sessions if you're hoping to get invited to attend Far West Regionals this year. The next session will be a week from today (Wednesday April 8) at 5:30pm, location to be determined. Everyone is welcome to attend so email Orion to let him know you'll be joining us.

See you there!

Monday, March 30, 2009

US Soccer 2009 Directives...Broken Down

Hopefully by now all of you have visited the US Soccer webpage and read up on the 2009 Directives (if you haven't, then please do so).

One of the elements of this edict from above is "Keys to Identifying Handling the Ball" and deals with a subject that is probably debated at least once every single game. This, again, is one of the topics that is directly applicable to our games, not a high-level theory that we have to adapt for use. Consistency, or the lack thereof, is a common complaint amongst coaches which is why it is so imperative to read, understand and implement these concepts. When we as a group apply this interpretation of the Laws of the Game uniformly it will makes things easier by educating and conditioning players, coaches and fans to what is handling

I won't post the entirety of the memorandum here so make sure and read it now...

Personally I find it best to break down offenses into a set of criteria; that's what helps me remember the information when in "the moment of truth." Let's look at the handling offense as five elements:

  1. Making yourself bigger.
  2. Is the arm or hand in an unnatural position?
  3. Did the player "benefit?"
  4. Reaction time.
  5. Hand/arm to ball.

We often recognize the hand/arm to ball and unnatural position, but how many times have you thought about an offense when the player makes themselves bigger? This often is a more subtle gesture and can slip past us but we need to try and catch it. Remember that we have to take into consideration the player skill level when making this call. The higher the skill level, the less of a benefit of the doubt you'll give to players.

Some information from this article is owned by US Soccer and its affiliates, used in accordance with the terms and conditions posted on www.ussoccer.com, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Priority of Assistant Referee Responsibilities

Talk about good timing! Just this last weekend during the Game of the Week training I was discussing with some referees the importance of the AR staying on top of the offside position. My argument was that you should always be focusing on that second to last defender (or the ball) and that if you have to ignore other things to be on top of offsides, then let them go. Even during my most abbreviated pregames I make sure to touch on the topic.

Well, apparently US Soccer agrees.

From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center:

Subject: Priority of Assistant Referee Responsibilities

In a recent professional exhibition match, a group of referees, instructors, and assessors was discussing an incident in which the assistant referee was faced with a conflict in priorities – whether to hang back and observe the goalkeeper with the ball in case the goalkeeper went outside the penalty area with the ball still in his hands (a handling offense) or to move up field to get in position for assisting with offside in case there was a quick counterattack after the goalkeeper released the ball. The conversation was vigorous, but the matter should have been easily settled by reviewing the relative importance of the two possible violations.

A similar conflict in priorities can arise when a team is attacking along the touchline and the assistant referee must choose between looking up the touch line to signal if the ball leaves the field and looking across the field to monitor whether an attacker moves into an offside position. Dividing attention this way is not impossible, but both responsibilities will suffer.

The single most important responsibility for the assistant referee is making timely and accurate offside decisions. All other duties outlined in Law 6 are secondary.

Offside decisions are often “game critical” regardless of their specific result. A decision for offside is just as likely to be challenged as a decision against an offside violation. Whether the issue is offside position or involvement in active play, if a goal is called back, allowed, or interrupted as a result, the decision will be controversial. It must therefore be supported by the best fitness, mechanics, communications, and concentration that the assistant referee can bring to bear.

If there is not much difference between where the assistant referee must focus to handle each different duty then clearly both duties should be attempted. As one duty increasingly becomes a distraction for the other, the assistant referee should attempt to adjust positioning to reduce the conflict. Where the distraction is too great, the only solution is to focus on offside, leaving to other members of the officiating team the responsibility of covering to the best of their abilities the less critical conflicting duty.

Among the topics which must be covered in the officiating team’s pregame discussion is the issue of what the assistant referee should do to resolve a conflict between offside and such other responsibilities as determining if the ball has left the field, which team has possession, and the occurrence of violations which do not involve violence.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Goalkeeper Violations

The Goalkeeper is a unique position on the field. He or she has certain special rights under the Laws of the Game and that can cause some confusion. It's no surprise, then, that the additional rights of GK's and their general proximity to the goal makes the situation prime for controversy. Let's clear up the common misconceptions and look at some scenarios you might encounter:

  1. Pass Back Violation. In order for this to be a violation remember that three things need to happen per US Soccer: The ball is kicked (played by the foot) by a teammate of the GK. The action is deemed to be deliberate rather than a deflection. The GK handles it directly without an intervening touch from an opponent. This includes a pass back that the GK dribbles back into the area and then picks up. Restart: Indirect Free Kick from the spot of the infraction. [Video]
  2. Handling by the Goalkeeper. Of course once the GK leaves the penalty area he is not allowed to use his hands. Consider a GK sliding, with the ball in their hand, out of the penalty area. Be completely sure that they are clearly out of the area before calling it and remember its where the ball is, not the keeper's body. Restart: Direct Free Kick.
In addition to these clear cut cases there are other situations to consider. For example, the GK leaving the area when punting the ball. Again, make sure before punishing it that you are absolutely sure they committed the violation. This is a good opportunity for AR involvement by warning the GK. If the behavior is repeated and obvious, then the call can be made. We only care about where the ball is while in his hands, not where the GK is or ends up after the kick.
This would be considered handling and the restart would be a Direct Free Kick. Usually this is considered unintentional and shouldn't be cautioned.

Speaking of cautions, what do you do when the GK comes out of the area and handles the ball? We know the violation is there and its a Direct Free Kick but what else? You'll need to read the situation carefully to make your decision. Did the keeper know he was out of the area? Where the Four D's of DOGSO present? In the Spirit of the Game, should there even be a card? I would say most times this would be at least a caution, but only if it was a deliberate tactical play.

Whenever you are penalizing the GK, be it a pass back violation or handling, err on the side of the GK. Never give such a severe penalty to a team merely on a hunch. Thinking it was a deflection on the pass back? Let it go...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Own Goal?

You can be around the game for a long time and still learn something...

Let's see if you can get this right on the first try. Answer the question as if you were presented with the situation in a live game and had to decide without the luxury of looking it up in a book. As before, first person to email me the correct answer will win a prize/small trinket.

It's a beautiful sunny day at the complex. Not a cloud in the sky but its still brutally cold due to the 35 mph winds blowing north to south. You've done three games today but the last one will prove to be the most challenging.

Team A is playing a rival club (Team B) and the match has challenged you since the first whistle. Although play is often one sided due to the wind your legs are burning from the constant sprints to keep up with the ball. You rest briefly as the goalkeeper chases after the ball. He gets it back and sets up to put the ball in play from a goal kick.

The ball is kicked, it clears the penalty area and is immediately caught in a stiff wind gust. The ball hangs momentarily, losing a battle of physics as it slows, reverses course and rides the wind back towards the goal.

It goes right in.

What's your call?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 US Soccer Referee Directives

These directives are extremely important to read! You can check them out here or by going through the US Soccer mainpage.

Also note the 2008 Week in Review archives are posted at the bottom of that page. Many have asked for those and now they are available. Any referee looking to upgrade or travel for Regional/National tournaments needs to be familiar with these documents.

Spread the work to your fellow referees!

Terminology of the Week

As promised, here is another concept that is important to recognize and understand.

Advantage: The “4 P Principle”

When considering the application of advantage, the following principle is provided as a guideline for officials. Remember, advantage application may differ depending upon the skill level, age level, and general atmosphere of the game.

The “4 P Principle” of Advantage Application:
1. Possession of ball: control by team or player.
2. Potential for attack: ability to continue a credible and dangerous attack.
3. Personnel: skill of attackers, numerical advantage.
4. Proximity to opponent’s goal: closeness to goal.

For this concept its important to remember that "advantage application may differ depending upon the skill level, age level, and general atmosphere of the game." Skill level and age level are pretty easy to grasp; if you're doing a U9 game you probably won't be calling very many advantages. But what does "general atmosphere of the game" mean? Well, it can mean a lot of things and that's what makes advantage a tough one.

As a referee we must be able to read the game, understand how the players are feeling and see the potential for conflict before it happens. Yes, that's as difficult as it sounds. So when we are deciding whether or not to let play go without calling the foul, we need to consider the 4 P's as well as the "temperature" of the match. Read how the player who was fouled reacted to the incident: Did they understand your decision? Or are they getting up and looking to retaliate? A hotly contested game can explode if players feel they were cheated by a poor advantage call. Sometimes in those situations you'll want to lean towards simply calling the foul.

Remember, the beautiful thing about advantage is you can always bring it back. Take a view seconds, observe the situation and decide what to do. If it doesn't pan out the way you had hoped then blow the whistle and bring the ball back.