Back to the grass

April 30, 2005
By TheRef
I was asked to sub in and do a pair of games for the unaffiliated league that I work during the winter. I don't start affiliated games until tomorrow, and this gave me a chance to get used to being on grass again.

And it was wonderful. It was also cold, windy, and snowed off and on, but it was wonderful. The games were good, too; in both games teams came out strong, then one side petered out in the second, allowing opponents to take advantage of long balls and have convincing scores. There were a couple hard challenges in the first game, but overall the games weren't terribly physical - it was more people, like me, trying to get used to the outdoor game again.

The flats I bought over the winter,m which I thought were broken in, started rubbing me the wrong way (fortunately not enough for a blister); hopefully it's just some adjustment for playing on a variable surface like grass (variable more for how its maintained, really), and the loss of calluses due to not wearing those shoes for about a month (I've been playing, but I wear my old flats for that instead of my new ones).

I start real, meaning USSF, games tomorrow. With a line on a division one men's rec game - I'm looking forward to it. Read More »

5 1/2, 33, 7

April 24, 2005
By TheRef
I made it - surprisingly!

It's taken me about a day to recover (maybe longer, I played today and had a pretty poor day in net), but I squeaked by in the 2200 meters. I was actually about 10-15 yards shy of the full 5 1/2 laps, but since the test sheets are marked out in quarters, I suppose I'm lucky they round up. Which is also fortunate, because I swear the track we were on was bigger than the track I'd been training on! I hope it was just an optical illusion and in my head, but I really thought it was a bit longer and deeper.

Definitely not recovered - my head really can't organize my thoughts on this, and it shouldn't be that difficult. So I suppose you'll just have to wade through them. The good news for me on the 2200 was that the amount of people running was much much larger than last time (about fifty to sixth people, as opposed to the twenty last time), so it was easier to find someone who fit the pace I wanted to run (or at least knew was closer to what I physically could run), rather than people who were 15 years my junior and ran cross-country in high school. I did end up slowing to a walk twice, which I didn't want to do, but I got a stitch in my side and just had to slow down. Fortunately, I was able to quickly recover (about 15-20 seconds each time) and get back to running.

Simply put, my goal was to do better on the 2200; if I didn't have to urge to hang my head in shame (like last time), it was good. The fact that I made it through the 12 minutes with something to show for it is even better. Yes, I have the adrenaline to thank for getting me through it, and maybe next year the goal will be to not have to depend on it.

I didn't have any problems with the 200 meter run or the 50; I'm not the fastest by any means (33 seconds for the former, 7 for the later; the cut-offs for each are 40 and 9 or 10, respectively), but I'm comfortable running them. Apparently the 200 is a problem for people who are used to long-distance running (meaning the continual stuff, not the start-stop that we usually get in a game), because their pacing is off. Hey, I've got to have an advantage somewhere. ;-)

The interesting thing at the physical, aside from seeing a whole bunch of adults running on a high school track, was the age disparity. Of the 50-60 people there, I was one of the youngest (and I just turned 32). I can only think of four people I know where in college (or college age), and one high schooler; tack on another one or two college-aged kids, and the pool for refs beyond entry-level is getting very old. I'd hazard a guess than only a quarter of the referees, if even that, where in their early 30s or younger.

Officially, I don't know if I get to keep my seven; they didn't grade the written test (too many people to do it on-site), and they'll only call you if you fail it. Considering my past scores, I'm not worried about failing - unless I started filling in bubbles for the wrong questions, which I caught myself doing; correcting myself and about five questions that I had to scratch out.

Now I just need some games to actually ref; that'll start happening next week. Read More »

Really freaking nervous

April 22, 2005
By TheRef
Tomorrow morning is my physical for grade retention. Last time I did really really poorly, and I'm nervous about a repeat performance. Despite training, I'm not where I want to be; I'm running just shy of what would be a passing run. I'm told that on a race, you tend to perform 20% better than when you train, because of adrenaline, but I wish I didn't have to rely on it.

Regardless, I know I'm running better than I was last time. But I'm nervous that I'll, like last time, get caught up in the people who are far better runners than I, and end up overextending myself and keeping myself from establishing the pace I need.

I hope I can sleep well - I'll need it. Read More »

Pretty quiet of late

April 18, 2005
By TheRef
Not a whole lot going on - a bunch of referee meetings (one from my adult assignors, one from my youth assignors, one upcoming for the State Cup), but unlike high school, there's no crap that comes with them. They're simply what you need to know, what we expect. No talking down, no cheap shots, and none of the hypocrisy that comes from high school sports as well.

It's shocking to me that, months after I finished the high school season, I'm still pissed about it. Oh well.

Not even any unaffiliated games - but I should start seeing something in the next couple of weeks. Read More »

Futsal Tournament

April 11, 2005
By TheRef
I refereed my first futsal games in a tournament over the weekend. Futsal, for those who don't know, is FIFA's officially sanctioned version of indoor soccer (as opposed to the turf in a hockey arena version that waxes and wanes in popularity in the US). In this case, it was played on basketball courts, with four field players and a goalkeeper, and a low-bounce ball that's a size smaller than you would get outdoors. In this case, since it was a tournament, halves were only 15 minutes long.

I saw futsal on television last year a couple of times: Fox Sports World has an Egyptian tournament on, and to be honest it was brutally boring to watch. But this tournament was much different - the action seemed much faster than the professional variety on the tube, and much more fun to watch (either on or off the floor).

I did seven games total, the first was a block of three, then a break, then two games, a break, and a final two games. The last game of the first block was the girls U14 final, which was a great hoot to watch. It was the same outdoor team split into two, but the score was 5-1 in the first half; the other side fought back in a relentless attack and came just shots away from tying the game before the final buzzer - they even blanked their opponents in that half, making the final score 5-4.

The 16-year-old boys were very interesting to ref, because the space was so crowded; it made making a decision between what was normal contact in such a confined space and what was a foul terribly difficult, especially in the first game. This was made more difficult by, even by my being off the field of play, over the sidelines (are they still touchlines when there are no throw-ins?); there were four courts back-to-back, which meant that there wasn't much room to duck out-of-the-way if play came that close to you. This being a pre-season tournament, the few occasions where that happened didn't seem to be a big deal, since everyone was in such close confinement.

One issue with a player, albeit a minor one (and one where a teammate of his said he was full of crap): I retracted an advantage call after a player who I thought might regain his balance didn't. The player, after the game, kept insisting that after you call out for advantage, you couldn't call it back. Humbug! It used to be that way, ages ago - but now we have a few seconds to even retract advantage if necessary. He said they went over it for an hour at his referee re-certification; if he has, there's been a major change in the USSF's interpretation of advantage - and I can't see why they would do such a thing. Read More »

Audio Laws and ATR are DONE!

April 7, 2005
By TheRef
I've finished the recordings of both the Laws of the Game and the USSF's Advice to Referees! Thank you to everyone who helped!

Download the Laws of the Game on audio (78.9 MB)

Download the USSF Advice to Referees on audio (127.6 MB)

There are several things to remember before downloading these files, though:

  • This is not a professional recording. It won't sound professional, because it isn't.

Read More »

Getting close to the real thing

April 4, 2005
By TheRef
I had the first of what will be several referee meetings: the first is for the adult recreational leagues, although the women's league would be better to say that they have recreational divisions - they're the only true women's league in about a five state region, and have several teams that cross state-lines in order to play. If you drive that far, you're serious about the game; that and most of the division one teams in this league play division one NCAA as well.

It's amazing the difference we're treated in this room, rather than in the high school meetings (even months after, I'm still seriously considering not doing high school next year - it's just not worth the crap that comes with it). It was strictly what we need to know, the administrative changes and differences between the two leagues, and the field situation.

And the field situation is pretty stark. There are still no soccer fields in the city limits, but the demand for them are increasing drastically. The President of the women's league explained it best when she said there was a 10% increase of teams this season, and they're expecting 20% more in each of the next several years - partially because of the increased interest of late-comers to the sport like myself, partially because the youth leagues are now funneling their U19 teams into the adult leagues instead of just dropping them when they turn twenty.

Now if I didn't have to wait a month before actually getting a game - but I guess until then, it's just me and the local track as I train for my physical. Read More »

Last indoor of the season

April 1, 2005
By TheRef
I had my last three indoor games of the season; there were only five games and the other ref volunteered to only have two, so I said he should take the division championship game - it seemed only fair.

The games themselves were nothing terribly exciting (although one player had to be talked down - he got pissed about an advantage call that had nothing to do with his challenge, just the one a quarter-second later on the same person he challenged), and nothing terribly exciting in the coordinator conversation department, either. She didn't want to bring it up, and she knew I'd be more than willing to comment - we've had enough discussions about improving refereeing in her league already.

This is what really needs to happen (aside from getting certified refs, which just isn't going to happen during the summer) is institute a real training program and more competitive pay. Adult soccer is booming around here, and they're riding the bandwagon, but eventually competition is going to happen (especially if the local USASA league decides to start a coed league of their own). Right now it's a struggle to get the refs to wear jerseys.

Ultimately, it's not my problem. I do that league for my own reasons (man management skills!) and not for any type of loyalty.

I think this winter did help me with my man management skills; I didn't have any games go to hell, like every year in the past. I had teams not like me, I tossed multiple players from games, but I think there was very little that, when it came down to misconduct, that came out of left field either from my or the player's perspective. Moreover, I had fun, and am soccer I'm going to have a near month-long break before the real thing begins.

That probably means I'm going to have a hellacious time during the summer. ;-) Read More »