Had they more people

August 29, 2008
By TheRef
I sometimes wonder if the really good teams play with fewer people by design, or because they lose people to boredom. In this game, a first division women's game where I was on the line, had the losing team had a full squad they would have crushed their opponents to a fine white powder; instead, they started with seven players and held their own for the first half. By the end of the first half, they worked their way up to 9 or 10, but it was blisteringly hot, in the mid-90s, and couldn't hold the pace in the second. And despite this, and their opponents having a good number of substitutes, they kept it close and competitive, losing only 2-1.

Makes you wonder. Read More »

Losing a personal landmark

August 27, 2008
By TheRef
You know it's hot and humid when the precipitation you feel isn't from the sky, but rather the sweat being flung from your arms as you run.

I realized as I got to the field, that one of my personal soccer landmarks , something that always brought back a memory, was being demolished. The game was played on a high school varsity field, which had been changed from grass to turf a few years ago, but was always in my memory because of two games in one season that were suspended, and eventually abandoned, because of lightning. The first game shouldn't have even started - there was a massive lightshow behind the stands, but the center referee plodded on with all the opening ceremonies, and even played a few minutes of the game before being persuaded to suspend it (he was freaking nuts - we should never have been out there). We all went into the nearby building, which currently only has a small portion of its outside wall left standing, and the parents grumbled and complained about the suspension until a power generator, some 20 feet from our location in the building, was struck by lightning. Later in the season I was back there again (also an AR), and the center suspended the game again because of lightning - there was no dawdling by the parents that time! The funny part was that several recognized me from the first game, so we both had some good-natured ribbing at each other's expenses, me for having "caused" the lightning, and them for changing their attitudes about the weather.

No weather problems here this time - other than it was hot and humid, even though the game didn't start until after 8:30 at night (indeed, even at 10:45, one of the local temperature gauges still registered things at 77 degrees). It's was a division one women's game, with even a few fouls. The home team, however, couldn't hold a lead, losing it twice, and had to settle for a 4-4 tie.

I wonder what it'll look like the next time I'm there. Read More »

As good as I've done in a long time

August 22, 2008
By TheRef
Does anyone really want to do the physical? OK, maybe the guy who ran a 5k in the morning and then went to the physical - but the rest of us? No, I didn't think so.

The last two years, I tried running my ass off during the winter to get ready for this thing, any it just didn't work out. I even did for this year, but then it got canceled for poor weather (snow), and my second attempt was nixed because of a shortage of referees in the State Cup. So for the third time around, I was done just running for running's sake - I came in to today's physical with no prep whatsoever, an iPod loaded with The Crüxshadows (hey, I'm a sucker for an electric violin, and the beat's really good to run to), and did better in the physical than I've done in a long time. I also had some additional help - unlike in years past, I found someone good to follow behind and use to pace myself. So, 12 minutes later, I finished my 2200 meters and probably could have kept going, muddled through the 200 (I never pace myself very well on it), and won my group in the 50.

Now, this isn't to say I haven't been working out - I have. But instead of running (and wondering why the hell I'm doing it), I've been quad-skating - and rather aggressively at that. It seems the mix of all of that helped quite a bit. Read More »

The long assessment

August 18, 2008
By TheRef
After my last turn of the ankle, I decided to take a week off of reffing - I was supposed to travel to Cincinnati for a skating event and the last thing I needed was to squander a third attempted vacation, plus airline tickets, just before my first event. As it turned out, it was probably fortuitous, because instead I acquired a stomach bug and was too busy letting everything fly from both ends to worry about refereeing - although I did clear up in time for my trip... just.

I got the assignment for this game while out-of-town, and was told that it was the first adult center for the person in the middle, who wanted to upgrade to a seven. As it turned out, it wasn't much of a mentoring situation, because an assessor was already assigned - although none of us knew it at the time.

I was checking in one of the teams when the assessor came in - I've known him for quite a while, and he wasn't amused when he found out I was the only person there - but they showed up, we did a brief pre-game, and dealt with some of the issues that caused us to start late (mainly, one just had enough players arrive to start the game, but not checked in, at the scheduled start-time; and both teams had similar uniforms, with neither having alternates). I have to admit, I have little sympathy for lack of alternate uniforms, as I look in my ref bag and see five sets of uniform - but it brought out the pre-game nastiness in a couple of the players.

The game wasn't terribly hard, but the center, who was quite young, made some mistakes. I'd question his assessment of handling, some of his positioning, whistling, and working with ARs - but I've found that none of that is emphasized in entry level training and maintenance clinics (although I haven't gone to one of the entry-level clinics in many years) - and even if it is, the climate with other referees won't reinforce it - so I can't really blame him for it. Hey, if nothing else, he gave a damn to look into upgrading, so maybe he'll get some of that training that the rest of us never got. I envy the younger referees - they often get invited to special referee camps and clinics that us old guys don't get (and when I say old, I meant the 27 I was when I started officiating - by then too old to get anywhere far in the referee business) - I had to watch the local professional leagues, and sometimes get out of their habits.

The assessor went though both of us ARs - I got dinged for holding my flag behind me when dealing with substitutions - I have to admit that I hear a different thing every time the situation comes up; most of the games with National Referees, which I look for, when searching for examples of good mechanics, have fourth officials, so I'm stuck with whatever flavor of the day comes from those of higher rank than I. I went to the grocery store with my wife, who was on a nearby field, and saw the center and the assessor still talking 40 minutes after we were asked to move along.

But he did still pass. Read More »

Getting sick of crap fields

August 11, 2008
By TheRef
I'm starting to think roller derby is safer than reffing soccer (I've already determined that it's safer than goalkeeping). At least if I get hurt playing roller derby, it'll be from the game - not because some crap field caused me to twist my ankle - which is exactly what just happened again. Only this time, I'm worried about how severe it is, because I couldn't get through the game. The hidden ankle-buster did its thing to me on the line within the first five minutes, and ten minutes later, things were hurting worse. I turned in my flag, limped home, and have been practicing R.I.C.E. ever since.

The thing was, I walked the field, and my line, before the game - but the hole was covered in long grass, so since I didn't walk into it on my initial pass before the game, it really did a number when I was running during it.

Feh. Read More »

180°

August 8, 2008
By TheRef
It's fascinating how the women's and men's games differ. Not only stylistically, which I've talked about many times over the years, but also in attitude. My last game was a first division men's match where from minute 1 to minute 90 it was bitch and moan to anyone within earshot, lots and lots of fouls, and probably lucky to get away with a single caution.

Now, the first-division women's game I just centered: I'd peg it as nearly as physical as the men's, but without the dirty play, and no whining and moaning whatsoever. I don't think I blew a foul until we were past the 60th minute, but they still worked me hard - I just didn't have to keep a whistle glued to my mouth or work a lot of man-management. I got dinged by my AR for not being loud enough again, but the game itself was so quiet, I made a decision to not be that loud, either (lest I be louder than the players, and this game certainly didn't need that). I probably over-did it a bit, but still.

I'm actually writing this a good week after the game happened. The same reason I couldn't attend regionals (mother-in-law trip to the hospital) necessitated a trip back to Iowa to help in her recuperation (lots of family matters in here, too - don't get me started). Looks like my planned backup for missing Regionals, USA Cup, is also going to have to be scratched as well, because I can no longer get the time off from work. So, if you're wondering why there aren't as many entries this summer as in years past, you know why: life intrudes. Read More »

Q: "When do I tell the assessor it's only my third D1 men's center?"

August 4, 2008
By TheRef
A: "You don't. Ever."

That was a bit of my post-game conversation with my senior AR, a National Candidate. Not only was this my first game in three weeks, it was only my third Division One men's center ever, and one of them was from last year - so it was a welcome back to the game of soccer, with a vengeance.

I found out at halftime that one of the teams, at the top of the table (ummm, shouldn't this game be handled by a State Referee, not a 7 with little experience at this level?), was composed of players who formed a high school dynasty, winning something like three state championships in a row, ending eight or ten years ago. The other team was at the middle of the table, and played short the entire game; they started the game very defensive, but when they found they could manage a decent attack, kept at it for the reset of the match.

The whine was also on... for 90 straight minutes both teams were complaining about something or other - to hear both teams tell it, I could do no right. At one point when players from both teams were disagreeing with each other, I let out, "See? This is why I don't listen to any of you." And it's true - my listening to either team would just be a real problem, especially when they all contradict each other so much.

The match was scoreless throughout the first half; I issued one caution for a takedown on a hard run to goal (there was another defender later on, so DOGSO was never an option), and you could feel the tension escalating. And in another time when it would be nice for both teams to actually sit around and cool off, they both, even the short-sided team, were back on the pitch in three minutes. So when the goalkeeper picked-up a back-pass 12 yards from goal, we had a nice little mess getting the kick organized.

I made a glaring mistake on that free kick. On previous kicks where the attacking team wanted a wall, I always moved back to the location by back-peddling to the spot I wanted. But in this case, there were already three defenders right on top of the ball (and I hate it when they do that - even if I understand why), I ended up standing in front, and trying to push them back - which meant I turned my back on the ball. My turning my back left an opening for the attacker to move the ball up, which caused a greater commotion as all the defenders wanted to get right back and have a piece of the attacker. In other words, what I thought was a good idea, to take a strong position against the defenders, was a big big oops. The good news is that my aforementioned National Candidate AR was out as soon as he saw what was happening, we got the ball back to the blade of grass it should have been on (and a free kick inside the penalty area - you're damn right it's a "blade of grass" moment), and saved my ass with no permanent harm done.

So game over, score 3-0 on three late goals from when the short-sided team finally lost their steam (all in the last fifteen minutes), it was on to the assessment. The first thing I was asked was this: "So, how do you treat a game when both teams are whining from the very first minute?" And mentally I'm shitting bricks, thinking that this may be the start of a very long debriefing; I'm thinking, "I don't have the mental references to put this into perspective for this level," followed by, "arrrrrgh!"

I actually answered something along the lines of, well, as long as it stays at a low level, doesn't get nasty or loud, I'm willing to let it slide. He replied, "And does that amount of talk-back affect your game." And again, I'm thinking, "Aw, shit. I don't know. That's why you're there - to tell me if it is." So, I waffle: "I try not to have it affect me."

"I don't think it did." YESSSS! "I saw a lot of smiling from you, you had a good presence, and it was that presence that kept the game in control. You heard their whines, acknowledged it, and moved on." Whew!

I also got the constructive criticism: I need to be more talkative, which is a repeat from last year's assessment, from a different assessor, so you know it's not just someone being persnickety. It sounds like they almost want a running commentary by the referee on what's a foul, not a foul, and advantage, instead of the occasional that I did. I think I did more talking than on my last assessment, but it's clear they want more.

Still - it makes me a happy camper. Read More »