Is the shortage here?

November 30, 2011
By TheRef
You would think, with the economy sucking as much as it does, that more people, even those who previously retired, might don stripes and referee. High School soccer pays pretty decent (I'd get $40-$45 a center for high-school ages at the club level - high schools pay close to $70), but I've been getting emails, and now texts, from assignors desperate for officials - and just not getting them. High School even allows the dreaded dual system of control (which, IMHO, is completely inadequate for a competitive game - although I think it's on more easy-going games, like recreational matches), so they don't even have to staff as many people.

But I'm getting those emails and texts the day before a game, quite literally begging for referees. Phrases like, "Need help badly" and "I'm desperate" have been littering my inbox lately - and they're all for multiple games in different locations. And while I feel bad for the assignors, I'm not feeling all that bad for the schools. High School soccer has, over the years, has earned a special hatred in my heart. Years ago, the schools quashed a requested pay raise, but the abuse and crap kept increasing. Maybe the chicken has come home to roost, and people are realizing that despite the good pay, the crap just isn't worth it, then good. It certainly was for me - it's how I got into reffing roller derby (which I'm not paid for, but have found to enjoy much more than the high school bull$%!@). Now, the question is, if the referee shortage is actually here, what will the high school association do about it? Will they think there's just a shortage of people, or realize that an unsettling number of coaches are assholes (especially on, and I use the word deliberately, boy's games, that their mantra of that high school sports is "an extension of the classroom" is a hypocritical lie, and their failure to support officials has lead to this problem? Somehow, I doubt it. Read More »

Head reffing my first sanctioned derby bout

November 20, 2011
By TheRef
So, since most of my readers are soccer people, a little background on how things work in the roller derby world. As of the day I write this, there are 1055 roller derby leagues world-wide; there are 124 leagues in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association covering the US, Canada, Scotland, and England, which is the gold-standard for roller derby leagues - both in operations and in quality of play. There are WFTDA "Apprentice Leagues" (meaning on the fast-track to becoming full members, which has 64 leagues in the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, England, Belgium, Australia, Germany, and France) and a waiting list of I don't know how long. Just like the USSF (and other soccer federations) have different levels of grading an official, so does the WFTDA: 1-5, with five being the top level, and most referees being uncertified (equivalent of a grade 8 in the USSF). I'm currently a level 2 (equivalent of a State-ish badge?). And just like the USSF, there are different types of games, even if they're played under the same rules (such as amateur, Division 1 amateur, professional, international, etc.). Top level matches that determine if a league can enter the WFTDA championship series, are referred to as Sanctioned Bouts. Up until this point, while I had officiated in sanctioned bouts. I had not been the head referee for any. When I reffed youth soccer, each club had their own referee assignor, and when Team A went to play at Team B's field, team B's assignor assigned three officials for the game. Typically in a WFTDA sanctioned bout, the referee crew is staffed by both leagues - because there is a maximum of seven referees, you get up to three from the visiting team (depending on their referees and funds to bring them over), and four from the home team. Just like in the example from the USSF youth games, where the referees are still supposed to be neutral, the same applies to WFTDA games - but it allows referees a chance to travel, pick up evaluations for certification, and pick up experience outside of your normal crew. Read More »

I'm the first to admit it sucks

November 14, 2011
By TheRef
This is probably my last game for the season. Not because I'm quitting, but just because I'm not working high school games again. I would have loved to have tried college, but it became clear that you needed to either be a State referee or a woman to be considered (sorry, it's true - all of the male referees I've seen working college games were State, National, or State Emeritus referees - women were all of those, but also included sevens and eights. Technically, USSF grades aren't supposed to matter in college games, but until you get the badge (or grow ovaries), you can go through all the hurdles and never get a call from the assignor.

It probably makes sense, since neither NCAA or NFHS actually does any kind of referee training. But, honestly, I stopped caring about it ages ago - I just brought it up because I occasionally get asked why I never do college games.

So the game was a full-length single referee affair. A women's rec-league where there really wasn't any issues. It was all very informal. One little issue, which (holy crap), the players understood, was a goal that they wanted an offside call. "I'm the first to admit that offside calls suck with a single referee, but here's what I saw and why I didn't call it..." I know I said this before, but they took my explanation at face value and moved on... and were even pleasant. On a different online forum, I'd make a comment about my head exploding.

The call itself was pretty simple, a striker was 3-4 yards from the goal line, then crossed it. The teammate that took the ball was ahead of the second-to-last defender, but behind the ball, and promptly scored in an open net. That kind of angle sucks for a single referee, but there it was, and I made a call, right or wrong (and it's the kind of call I've made consistently over my career when acting as a referee: if I can't see it, I can't call it). It also didn't matter all that much, the game ended 7-0, but it's nice to have a call like that, especially one that results in a goal, be respected for what it was. Even if it was only a rec league. Read More »

She was going to be an awesome ref

November 6, 2011
By TheRef
One of the things I really like about reffing roller derby is that we have a crew, and we work together all season. And when the players practice, we practice (if not reffing scrimmages, then working on skills, rules knowledge, situations, etc.). Last year when I became the assistant head referee (and I don't want to be the head - been there done that - this lets me pick and choose what I want to do), I decided I wanted to take an active role in new referee training.

When we take a new referee, we tell them the chance of them skating for that first season in a bout is slim (we get about 3,500 paying customers per event). We still prep them for it, skate them in scrimmages so they can learn and prepare, but on bout-night they'd usually get non-skating roles. Last year we took three new referees; one of them shortly moved to San Jose, and the other two had only put on skates for a couple of months before tryouts. Don't get me wrong, that didn't bother me too much - it would be awesome to get people who were top notch skaters, but most of them go in for playing first - I'm a weirdo who wanted to ref first. But they both picked up skating and reffing very quickly.

Like a parent, I love my reflets equally (I coined the term to refer to myself when I was going through the training process myself), but there was one that just excelled. She had an excellent eye, became a very good skater, and I didn't have any problem putting her in bouts at the midway point of the season. And when it came to hosting WFTDA sanctioned bouts (which count for (inter)national rankings and tournament invitations) I felt comfortable inserting her into the lineup. It was a big deal to have her skate in a bout; even bigger for the sanctioned play (considering it was a safe assumption that both teams would, and did, go into the regional tournament).

But we had our annual tryouts, and she left to become a player. It's a shame from a ref standpoint, anyway (although I'm sure it's not for her or her new teammates). I said on a couple of occasions that she'd be reffing the crap out of us in a couple of years, she was picking up stuff so fast. This year, we've got another new crop of referees - I wonder who will stick around in this batch? Read More »