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.