It needs to come from the top down

February 10, 2013
By TheRef
First, apologies for the site weirdness over the last few days: the site got moved to a new server (among other things) - there might be some hiccups in the site itself, but the DNS and sever appears to be more normal now.

So, just a little mini-rant. I'm in the process of going through my soccer re-certification, and there's an online section of referee abuse. So far, everything on how to deal with it is good - except that the USSF still fails to realize that the issue is a top down one; while yelling and abuse is allowed at the highest levels of the game, it will not stop at the lowest. I know the USSF can't do anything about international games, but saying that professional games are "entertainment" and thus allows them to yell at referees just kills me. I saw very little shirt pulling until the 2002 World Cup, where it was allowed without repercussion; even before the cup was over, leagues that had none went to stretched fabric all over the place.

Parents are the example to their children. Professional soccer is the example to the lower levels. If the players and coaches are being paid, then they should have that added responsibility to behave properly. But no, the presentation is a "zero tolerance approach to abuse of soccer officials" in the "youth game."

Sigh. Read More »

Some follow-ups, and some depressing thoughts

July 21, 2012
By TheRef
It's been rather interesting checking in on stuff I've written eight or nine years ago (it's also a pretty slow process, so bear with me). But I found a couple things I decided I wanted to follow-up on; one was a Bedfordshire football club that beat a referee so badly that that he needed two metal plates and nine screws to fix his jaw; and the assistant referees needed to buy new kits, as theirs was burnt. Unfortunately, other than a weekend strike that had little effect (games apparently went on without referees - thank you for the support FA), I hadn't been able to find anything else.

One that made me stop in my tracks was a small saga I wrote several pieces on a Mr. John Runk, who, after being ejected from a U-little game (as in U-8) and failing to leave, assaulted the referee. I'd love to believe that there's more than one John Runk who coaches in Maryland, but I'm seeing his name pop up as a coach and manager of Maryland Sports United, a soccer club.

One reference is here, another here, and a third here.

On one hand, I still feel the anger from when I first wrote those articles, and when I see that the club has (among other things) this to offer: "Most clubs today focus on a 'win at all costs' mentality, at the expense of individual player development, creativity and performance....we do not" I get a little pissed too. But on the other hand, I'm not as angry about it as I was. Read More »

"This is not soccer. Is that clear?"

January 13, 2012
By TheRef
Props to Referee Magazine for posting this video, and it caused me to laugh my ass off. Partially because it's funny, partially because it keeps me from getting so depressed in how little respect referees are getting in football any more.

And here's what the referee said, for those who can't watch it:
"I don't think we met before, but I'm the referee on this field, no you. Stick to your job, and I will do mine. If I hear you shouting for anything again, I'm going to be penalizing you. This is not soccer. Is that clear? Back you go and get on with the game."

And this is at the upper levels of the game, where the USSF has said on many occasions that referees must put up with garbage because the it's more entertainment than sport. Which is why abuse is common at every level of the game, from processional down to U-littles.

My laughing at this pretty much proves to me that player and coach behavior in soccer has become a joke. A sad sad joke that people who want to help the game, in a no-glory position, also have to deal with heaps of verbal feces. Soccer players and coaches at all levels should watch this video and feel ashamed. But they won't.

The video is below Read More »

A general WTF thought

March 8, 2011
By admin
Maybe it's my being exposed to different types of officiating, but I'm getting kind of cynical with regards to some of the practices that we're seeing as acceptable at certain levels of the game. You may have already read my rants about the most recent World Cup, but it's going further and further down the ladder: the game at higher levels is being less about us keeping the game safe and fair and more about keeping it interesting.

W. T. F.

I've ranted a little about this before - most recently with regards to Spain-Netherlands final, when some highly placed US officials mentioned that yes, Webb would have likely flunked his assessment if he actually sent off a player for placing spikes squarely in another guy's chest. But a recent conversation on SocRef regarding how it's becoming a larger practice to withhold cards during assessments; and specifically during a showcase tournament where the assessor told (I'm sorry, suggested) that the referees should pocket their cards - I'm sure so nobody ran the risk of missing a game because of multiple yellows in multiple games. This is a recipe for disaster. Yes, if we can handle a situation without plastic, cool beans. But sometimes just because you can handle the situation without a caution or sendoff does not mean that you should; instead you should be able to use that savvy to be able to enforce those cards.

Those of us who have refereed know how difficult it can be to enforce some of the niggling but important safety rules. Take jewelry; if you actually enforce its absence (and you should), I guarantee that you've heard, "But all the other refs have let me wear it." Are we hitting the same thing when it comes to bookable offenses? If it's becoming a mark of shame to brandish a card even when wholly appropriate (and if we're being told to avoid them across the board, and not at an assessment, then yes it is), then it just makes things more difficult for other refs later down the line. Years ago, at my first youth regionals, a referee in a brutal game issued seven bookings and come out smelling like a rose. Are those days over and done?

What about referee abuse? Just because an individual can take the crap does not mean the bar should be set that high for everyone else. All of this just equals fewer referees, when the game is short not only of good referees, but even adequate or (as an assignor once put it to me) simply bodies on the field. I know the game is not about the officials, but it doesn't do anyone any good to further create a shortage of refs or an unneeded and frankly wrong sense of privilege for players. I mean J. F. C. we take loads of crap on good days, shouldn't we at least be allowed to do our game without with political bullshit?

And if a player misses a game or two from a "showcase tournament" or playoffs, or whatever because they were stupid? Fuck 'em; it's their own fault and you won't find any sympathy from me. There's enough bonus entitlement and privilege for athletes today without it venturing into have them be exempt from the rules.

Maybe the game is just leaving me; maybe I've gotten so old that I've started thinking, "back in my day..." while waggling my cane. But as the game continues to get faster, the game will continue to get more and more physical - which makes serious injury more and more likely. Shouldn't, in the name of safety, we be willing to issue more cards? We already know there are players who are happy to pick up a yellow if that means it disrupts the other team, and if it's no shame for them to pick up a caution, why should we make it a shame for the referee to issue one, or even two? Read More »

Five Best of the First Five Years: Week of the Living Wingnuts (2005)

April 2, 2009
By TheRef
I've worked 645 [as of when this was written] regulation USSF games so far in my career- that doesn't count indoor, unaffiliated, or high school, which means I've seen a lot of stuff - some good, some bad, and some so bad that it's funny when you first look at it, then sad when you think of the broader implications. Take this, a U9 game where an adult gets so into the game that he makes a scene in front of his child (or grandchild). It's the epitome of what's wrong with sports today; at that age (well, any age really, but that age in particular) it shouldn't matter what the refs do, or even how the kids do on the field - the idea should be that they have fun, and learn something positive from play. He shouldn't have to learn that, "My dad can't control his temper." It makes me shudder to think what he's like at home.

Week of the Living Wingnuts

Something is most definitely in the water this week, because I've got people in both of my jobs going nuts over stupid things. With the job, it's not just stupid things, but things that are absolutely impossible to put one-and-one together to make a deuce; but they rant rave, and insist, and I charge them $150 an hour for it (it's actually not as good as it seems, because I end up having to neglect my other clients just to placate these bozos).

I was asked by my assignor to help out on a game today; it was right before my scheduled game, at an adjacent field, I had a short drive and I'm usually very early anyway. I've heard it's really bad manners (and signs of a terminal ego problem) to turn down games because they're "beneath" you; and I figured, hey, a U9 would be fun, especially after the last game.

Unfortunately for me, there were major similarities. Fortunately, it involved a parent, not the coaches - and in this game even the coaches were on my side. How can you screw up this game? The kids don't know, let alone are cynical enough, to foul - I think there were a pair where a kid's eyes were so focused on where they were going that they didn't realize they just plowed over their opponent. If there's any such thing as a milk run for an adult referee, this is it.

In this case, the antagonist was a rather large male, either a father or grandfather, who fancied himself a coach rather than a spectator. He was loud, obnoxious, condescending to his peers, and thought he could be an AR while in a lawn chair Can you just see my eyes rolling, even though the text? I thought so.

So in the second half he wanted a corner kick because he thought the goalkeeper touched the ball - he didn't - he pulled up and didn't come within two feet of touching the ball.

"Jesus! What kind of call are you making?" The refs for my second game heard him 150 yards away. Now before I go further, let me just say that while coaches can get under my skin, parents just amuse me - they could say the exact same things, and I'll have totally different reactions to it; I think that's because I hold coaches to a higher standard), even if they fail repeatedly (I'd love to see a study that shows the decline of behavior in soccer linked to the inclusion of coaches on the field, because I bet it's true). Fans, especially American fans, are just ignorant of the game, and just make for good entertainment.

However, he was swearing loudly in the presence is eight-year-olds, and I can't ignore that. So I turn, say, "Hey, I'm a little closer to the play than you, let's cut down on the language" - I'm trying to assert my authority and be diplomatic at the same time, but it didn't work. He picked up his lawn chair, threw it, thankfully, straight down onto the ground, then stormed off to the parking lot, hooting and hollering the whole time.

Then the really funny bit: He comes back onto the field, wearing a different shirt as if he's trying to sneak back in, so he could complain to the coach of his team! First, I didn't even throw it him; and second, like anyone with the build and weight of a giant pumpkin could sneak anywhere! OK, can you now see me trying to hold back the giggles? You're good!

I chatted with that coach for a few minutes after the game (it was all I had, as I had to literally run to the next game), and she didn't understand his fit, either. It was their first game, she didn't know him, and she said that she appreciated my actions, because most of the time they get kids only a few years older than their players doing these games. I asked if, since I'd only done two of this age group in five years, if I missed stuff, if I had misjudged how tight I should call the game, or whatever, and the answer was no, I hadn't. It turns out that he's merely your stereotypical Ugly American, yelling, screaming, frothing at the mouth about a game he's never played or even watched - someone who thinks he can do in a chair what others need run for, even though if you painted him a single color, he'd look just like a gum drop.

The 15 boys game, which I was scheduled to line for, was a more difficult game, but very one sided. How one sided? For the majority of the second half, the goalkeeper hung out inside the center circle. The other team's defense was just too winded after the first twenty minutes to put up any kind of fight, even if they wanted to.

Hopefully the rest of this week will even out a bit. Read More »

10 Best of 2008: No good deed goes unpunished

January 18, 2009
By TheRef
The comparison between law enforcement officer and referee has been way overused, and I'm guilty of it myself. But a few weeks ago my wife and I were flipping through the channels on TV and watched some of Parking Wars - and I thought that we're not police officers - the comparison (beyond overuse) is too melodramatic; we're parking enforcement officers. Let's compare:

• Are we necessary? Yes, at least until people start playing/parking like civilized people and playing by the rules.
• Are we hated for doing what needs to be done? Hell, yes.
• What would happen if we were suddenly taken out of the picture? Parking, just like the pitch, would be rather chaotic.

And there are times, just like in Parking Wars, where referees go above and beyond to help someone out in a pinch, and not only is the extra effort not appreciated, but is thrown back in our face with a healthy gob of spit. Here's an example:




No good deed goes unpunished

You know what should have happened? I should have heard from the players something along the lines of, "Well, he made an extra effort for us, he could have said 'No' right off the bat. We tried." Instead, it was, "The ref won't make me play, even though I came all the way from ____," followed by the inevitable, "fucking ref."

So, I'm the bad guy again, and I think I went through some extraordinary lengths to try to get a player to play, and I didn't have to do it. It's a simple situation: the player has no pass. They say they had no pass last week, but had a letter from the league that allowed her to play - that's no problem, because the letter gets included with the game report, and if the letter is a forgery then there is hell to pay (by the team, not the officials). The problem is, they didn't have a letter for this game - and they are required to have a separate letter for each match they play. And their team captain who presumably would have it wasn't coming to this game. They didn't even have a copy of last game's letter.

So here's were I thought I would be clever and terribly accommodating: if they could get ahold of the captain (or someone with access to her stuff), get the letter and email it to me, I'd get it on my phone and we could let her play. Seems more that reasonable, no? They thought so too at first - so they made some calls and got the "letter" scanned in and emailed to me. Problem was, it was scanned as a .pdf, which my phone won't open; so they did it a second time (at this point my center told me to keep my cell phone with me on the line to check the mail as it came in) - but when it came in, it wasn't the letter I was expecting, but a scan of her pass. But it wasn't just one of her pass, but two passes - including a player we had already checked in!

By now, 30 minutes into the first half, the player sitting out has whipped her team into a mild frenzy, and they're all complaining about why she can't go in (despite them being up 7-1, she's somehow absolutely critical to their team). The center and I talked some more about it at half time, and agree that, no - it can't happen (not much of a discussion, but him saying we'd discuss it at half-time diffused things a bit). And now we go back to the top of this article.

Fucking ref? Fucking unappreciative players. Read More »

No good deed goes unpunished

July 8, 2008
By TheRef
You know what should have happened? I should have heard from the players something along the lines of, "Well, he made an extra effort for us, he could have said 'No' right off the bat. We tried." Instead, it was, "The ref won't make me play, even though I came all the way from ____," followed by the inevitable, "fucking ref."

So, I'm the bad guy again, and I think I went through some extraordinary lengths to try to get a player to play, and I didn't have to do it. Again, it's a simple situation: the player has no pass. They say they had no pass last week, but had a letter from the league that allowed her to play - that's no problem, because the letter gets included with the game report, and if the letter is a forgery then there is hell to pay (by the team, not the officials). The problem is, they didn't have a letter for this game - and they are required to have a separate letter for each match they play - and their team captain who, presumably, would have it wasn't coming to this game. They didn't even have a copy of last game's letter.

So here's were I thought I would be clever, and terribly accommodating - if they can get the letter and email it to me, I'd get it on my phone and we could let her play. Seems more that reasonable, no? They thought so too, at first - so they made some calls and got the "letter" scanned in and emailed to me. Problem was, it was scanned as a .pdf, which my phone won't open; so they did it a second time (at this point my center told me to keep my cell phone with me on the line to check the mail as it came in) - but when it came in, it wasn't the letter I was expecting, but a scan of her pass. But it wasn't just one of her pass, but two passes - including a player we had already checked in!

By now, 30 minutes into the first half, the player sitting out has whipped her team into a mild frenzy, and they're all complaining about why she can't go in (despite them being up 7-1, she's somehow absolutely critical to their team). The center and I talked some more about it at half time, and agree that, no - it can't happen (not much of a discussion, but him saying we'd discuss it at half-time diffused things a bit). And now we go back to the top of this article.

Fucking ref? Fucking unappreciative players. Read More »

Teaching styles

May 21, 2008
By TheRef
I'm going back to the original point of this blog - to vent frustration, although for a change it's not the players, coaches, or fans causing the frustration, it's the assessor. The good news is that it's not an official assessment, so I don't have to go through additional assessments, and it's not even the information he gave out. It's... well, you'll see in a bit.

The game was pretty easy - it just had one really difficult call early on - the 12th minute. It was a State Cup match between the private school I did a few games with over the winter (specifically, the one that played the semi-pro team), and another club. The private school, from experience, is fast, disciplined in play and in attitude, and well organized. The other team also had very good attitudes, but was sorely lacking in organization: first, they only had ten players suited-up; then they didn't have enough socks to change (both teams had the same color socks, and as the designated home team, they had to change). They scavenged a couple of black, but non-matching socks, and we played, but it was clear it was going to be a blowout.

Then the decision, a player on the right flank gets a breakaway, turns in toward the goal, the goalkeeper is outside of his area challenging him, trips him up (not getting any ball). There are no other defenders anywhere near him, or anywhere near getting toward the goal. Send-off. Probably one of the easiest sells I've had with a red card - the coaches agreed, his own players agreed - I still didn't want to do it, because it would drop them down to nine players and make it a blowout. Which it was. 14-0. And most of the second half was the leading team just passing the ball around.

So, now the unofficial assessment, which was done by a current National Referee. Here's where I want to start: I've always been told that, when critiquing someone else, regardless of what it is, find something, preferably three things that the person did good, and start out with those, even if the performance totally sucked. The idea is that it helps the person being critiqued take the negatives, and build them on top of the positives. For example, a positive may the person's speed on the pitch (or maybe how hard he worked if he's not fast), then bring up his crappy positioning. :-) Or, conversely, bring up good positioning, then suggest going deeper, running harder, or something along those lines.

If you guess that we got nothing positive out of this guy, you're correct; congratulations. That's one more positive than our entire team got.

Maybe it's done differently when you're a National Referee. Maybe with the National badge the assumption is that you should be great, and that you shouldn't take a 100% negative assessment badly. But we're not Nationals. We're not National Candidates. Hell, none of us were even State referees.

OK, maybe it wasn't a good idea to start with one of my ARs, who was, admittedly, not up to the standards of a U18 boys State Cup match. He didn't run to the goal-line, his mechanics were poor, he had a tendency to stop even when the offside line continued toward onward. OK, so I don't have that many positives - but he didn't piss anyone off, except maybe the assessor, because he argued back, repeatedly. So by the time he got to the rest of us, he wouldn't answer any questions - which is a real problem if you're trying to learn from the experience of someone who has more than you.

He started at us with the socks. Some of them had white bits to them (you're typical Adidas socks), instead of the all-black that the others had. He said we should have told them to fold them back, because of the tournament. OK - that's good. So I told him of our situation earlier, and asked what we should have done if they didn't have those socks at all (which looked like the case for a while, and the visiting team didn't, either - thinking they didn't need to, since they were away). Question ignored. I asked again. Question ignored.

Then the red card. He insisted that the player wasn't heading toward the goal, and we ignored the "Direction" portion of the 4-Ds. In my mind, no I hadn't - he was turned directly toward the goal, even if on the outside of the penalty area, had a clear path toward the goal, and would have no interference in an easy score. But we kept hearing, multiple times, "If you're not sure about the direction, don't issue a red." OK - is he saying that the player needs to be more demonstrably heading toward the goal or needs to be more centered? To me, this is critical, because I'll have this type of situation again at some point. But did he answer the question? No! He just said again, "He was not heading toward the goal. I was right here - he was not heading toward the goal". The problem was, that "right here" was on the opposite touchline!! He could have said, "If I can't see it from here, then you should issue a DOGSO card" - that would make sense, it meant that the player had to be demonstrably moving toward the goal, beyond a step or two. But no, he just said, "He was not moving toward the goal. If this was an assessment, I would fail you."

I now scream in frustration in the untimely passing of a teachable moment.

Again, to vent my frustration (which isn't intense, but I was to learn from my betters, and while he may be a better referee, his teaching style sucks), I need to point out what how I think it should have been done. How other situations have been deconstructed. It's very simple, get the referee to describe the situation, first. Let's do this hypothetically:

Assessor: Describe for me the red card.

Referee: Player had a breakway down the right flank just outside of the penalty area, the keeper charged outside of his area to challenge him, missed the ball, tangled up and fouled the attacker. There were no other defenders anywhere near, the player was heading towards the goal, and I thought it was DOGSO and issued the red card.

Assessor: Where was the player heading when fouled?

Referee: Toward the goal.

Assessor: Are you sure? It looked like me like his angle wouldn't take him directly toward the goal.

And there you have the teachable moment - you can substitute that last comment with "He wasn't clearly moving toward the goal, even if turned," or something else. Anything other than simply, "He wasn't going toward the goal."

At that point, I kind of gave up. The guy has a wide assortment of knowledge, and is showing us that he has it, but isn't actually sharing it. He rattled off several other negatives, but instead of trying to get the specifics, trying to piece my memory of the events into what was right and what was incorrect, I simply got a "You're wrong." It's like getting a test back with a score, but no markings on what questions you got wrong.

I'm sure he meant well, he wasn't nasty or anything. But unfortunately he didn't really teach me anything, either. Read More »

MLS Cup Spoiler: Referees lose $498.45 + shipping

November 18, 2007
By TheRef
WARNING: This is a completely off-the-cuff opinion piece. I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time for any reason. However, being saddled with a potential uniform bill of $498.45 for next season (based on the "holiday special" prices from OSI), this feeling is likely to last a looooong time.

Brian Hall in GreenWhat we were expecting: a new color jersey, green, and after a press release, in a new style. Is the style any good? Judge for yourself. We were all expecting new socks, maybe to replace the "egg socks" that the USSF and OSI released (the one with the USSF logo on the sides), apparently without actually seeing what they'd look like when placed on a leg with a calf muscle.

OK, fine. There's some grumbling - especially at my end, since I think they should have done green before blue (which every other team in the nation plays in). I think, given the age of the current jerseys (about ten years old) that we expected a phase-in of whatever new design came in over time. I mean, it's not fair to drop all four of the previous jerseys (eight when you consider short and log sleeves) in one fell swoop, right?

OSI 2008 JerseysApparently, yes. That's exactly what the USSF and OSI did. We now have, five colors of entirely new jerseys based on the design we saw at the MLS Cup, including new shorts (same short as before - just with the updated logo) and new socks (I don't know if the egg socks are officially gone or not). No idea when the old jerseys will be officially phased out (like the fuchsia ones were when the pinstriped jerseys we have now first came in), but if you go to the Official Sports website, you can't buy the old pinstripe jerseys anymore, except in the Clearance section.

You're going to hear a lot of people being really annoyed about this, and I'm going to jump in. The USSF and OSI, while raking in the bucks, is really going to tick off a lot of people, because aside from green, we had no warning on that whatsoever. Now, if you look back at my previous thoughts on the green jersey, I said something to the effect of, if OSI uses a different fabric in their short-sleeved jerseys that breathe better (like the Adidas jerseys do - which are a joy to wear), that I'd happily fork over a large chunk of change. That doesn't appear to be the case, either: according to OSI's site, the new jerseys are wearing to misnamed "Coolwick" fabric - which is just short for saying "we hold all your sweat in the jersey, don't release it back to the atmosphere, and just make those hot and humid summer days under the sun that much more miserable.

I don't expect people to shell out the $498.45 it'll cost for a full set of ten jerseys, which, depending on which specials you order, include socks and shorts. Most referees don't have a full set of the eight we have... er, had. But those of us who enjoy doing higher level games like Regionals, what do we do? Pack 18 jerseys so we can go into either system in case the center wants to do old or new jerseys, or if someone only has one set? I enjoyed working that one semi-pro game (add fourth officials, I've done three): if I want to continue, I pretty much have to buy a complete set.

The sad thing is, USSF/OSI could have done this a whole lot better, with a whole lot less pain. They could have introduced the green, and the new socks, as planned, and left the other four jerseys alone. And following the MLS Cup, announced that they would be phasing in the same design in a different color once every one or two years, and go in the order of introduction. I'd space it out like this: 2008, green jersey; 2009, yellow jersey; 2010, black jersey; 2012, red and blue.

Is phasing them in over time so hard to do? Can't there be a little compassion for our wallets and budgets? Can't they just mug us instead? It may not hurt as bad. Read More »

Who wasn't apologized to? More Sweden-Denmark commentary from a different view.

June 9, 2007
By TheRef
By now you've probably seen the end of the recent match between Denmark and Sweden, if not, you can find it all over YouTube. The facts of the incident are pretty clear: In the 88th minute, the AR in Denmark's defensive end calls over the center referee to ask him to issue a penalty and send-off for Denmark's Christian Poulsen, who slugged Markus Rosenberg well away from the play. Immediately after the red card was shown and the spot pointed to, a fan ran onto the field and attempted to attack German referee Herbert Fandel, getting an arm around the neck before Denmark's players corralled him.

Post-game consequences include a three match ban for Poulsen, an $81,000 fine for Denmark's soccer federation, and the next four Denmark Euro 2008 qualifiers must be played at least 155 miles from Copenhagen with the next match in an empty stadium.

Here's what the press doesn't tell you: the AR deserves big time kudos on catching the punch. I've seen similar situations missed, but these guys were spot on, and deserve that white triangular badge they were wearing.

Here's what I don't get: Poulsen, after the send-off, has the cojones to protest his innocence after the send off - twice. First right after the red card, then as the officials are discussing the situation before ultimately terminating the game. While the supporter has rightly apologized to the referee and everyone else he can think of (and considering the financial and legal repercussions he's facing, he's going to be busy camper), and Poulsen has made his own general apology, I think everyone has missed something important here:

As much of a bad role model Poulsen is (and he is) for his incident, nobody seems to give a rat's ass about the blatant lying he did to the referees after the incident. Nobody's said a word. This is just the latest in a long string of athletes, professional or amateur, who think trying to pull one over on the referee is part of the game. It shouldn't be - soccer used to be a gentleman's sport: you knock someone down, you get called for the foul, you help them back up; instead it's become no different than cut-throat business - yes, these guys are professionals, and this is their business, but is it too much to ask for better? When did the definition of acting like a professional become the same as acting like a five-year-old? Maybe I'm being over-sensitive, but I'm seeing this as a character issue - not just of the people involved (Poulsen and the fan), but of the major media: we have a great moment to really reflect on what it means to be a good sport and how to take responsibility for your own actions, and it's being lost.

You know what? People do stupid things - I've done plenty off and on the pitch as well. The slug by Poulsen doesn't particularly bother me - stupid things happen. The last send off I received (not dealt) involved the taking out of my frustrations verbally with some very crass (and frankly, offensive) words that more than deserved an ejection; and when I was, as expected, ordered off the pitch, I didn't say a word to the referee (maybe, "OK"), I just marched off - because I knew that whatever had been done to me to build the frustration, I knew I crossed the line and deserved the red card. I'm no angel, but I know when I've been an asshole. I'm not asking for players to be angels, just to own up when they're caught, as they're caught. The true test of being an upright person's character is not saying the right thing in the press conference after you've been coached on what to say; its doing the right thing immediately, even after doing a wrong thing, and not trying to wriggle out of your comeuppance. To pardon my phraseology, show the rest of the world, "How to take it like man." Read More »

Best of 2006: More reasons I hate the NFHS

January 4, 2007
By TheRef
Somewhere, somehow, the NFHS and its state representation really rubbed me the wrong way; but if you want to referee in this state, and if you're not fortunate enough to be able to work college games, it's high school ball or nothing. It was so bad that in 2005, I decided to take the year off from high school soccer entirely, and while my wedding and my future wife's ACL tear were good excuses, the time off was going to be inevitable - if not last year, than this year. As it turned out, the year off did my attitude a world of good, although the ugliness of the high school game eventually reared it's rather greasy head.

And even after a season I skipped, they found a way to piss me off. Not that what they did was anything new, but the reinforcement of it just leant itself to, well, a rant. This country has a love-affair with coaches (OK, sometimes they hate them, but if they have results, they can do anything, look at Bobby Knight. The USSF isn't much different than the NFHS, as far as organizations go (and neither is FIFA, if you take Sepp Blatter out of the picture), but unlike the NFHS, referees are members of the USSF, and it shows. The USSF actively trains its referees, they have a say in how the organization is run, how misconduct (in a game or by officials) is handled, and provide a support system (by assessors, and state referee committees) for officials as well. the NFHS does squat.

Unfortunately, that also applies to sportsmanship. I've heard our youth soccer league (USSF-affiliated) deny teams a trip to Regionals because of poor sportsmanship. I've heard the local adult recreational league (also affiliated with the USSF) give out lifetime bans on players and forcibly dismantle problem teams. Sportsmanship is more than how you treat your teammates, your coaches, and your opponents, but it's also us: we're there to make the correct call, not the popular call, not the desired call. The correct one. The USSF referee program understands this; I don't think the same applies to the NFHS.

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