Monday, July 11, 2016

Don't keep it a secret

As I work these higher level games, 2 conclusions come to mind. One of them is that you get to work with many incredible, driven, determined and confident individuals and some of them are almost half my age. Quite incredible if you ask me. The other is that you don't really get paid any more than you did for the previous level of matches. These past two weekends, I worked a couple of WPSL matches that were quite interesting, especially in light of the little things you hear that are useful in my future matches.

In the level of talking, there is more than I normally do. The typical, "straight up", "don't be silly", etc. Then the other one that I heard as an AR for the first time was, "don't keep it a secret". Basically the center asked us to vocalize something that both teams could benefit from. His particular example was a ball that was on the touch line but not fully out, spinning close to the line or questionable. Everybody knows when it goes out because the AR will signal, but he had a ball that was not fully out and it looked out but was spinning in place and a player grabbed the ball thinking it was out with her hands. That lead to the only game of the match. He was being assessed and was told to not keep it a secret in an instance like that, where both teams can benefit from the information and no do something silly. While I believe that most of us do that as a center, we rarely do it as an AR. I liked the fact that the scenario presented clearly indicates when it is beneficial. This applies more at the higher levels rather than at the lower levels where interaction between referee and player is more ceremonial to verbalize it in a way. I know I don't verbalize nearly enough especially when I am an AR to players. What do you all think about the more verbalization?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Communicating with players

It has been a while again. I do apologize. What has kept me busy these past 5-6 weeks is what I want to talk about today. Since my last post, I have gone ahead and started working a lot more at the higher level leagues (yes, being a 6 has its advantages, and disadvantages). One of the advantages is being able to work PDL matches and CCL 23 matches, etc.

These matches are at a whole other level than the typical U15 match. There is a lot more thought and purposefulness to everything that goes on. In one PDL match, we had to arrive 90 minutes prior to kick off, had a minute by minute time table set out in our locker room and had actual paying public at the door. Not stuff I am used to.

One of the main things that really got me was the use of the communication systems. In the PDL match where I was a fourth official and then a State Cup final where I was AR2, I had the benefit of using an open mic system akin to what the professionals use. And it was mind blowing in terms of the different tactics that the centers used to convey their thoughts, what they were seeing and the level of chatter compared to what I am used to.

I was not aware at how little I talked until I started doing these open mic matches where I can hear all the little things that are said as part of drive bys and during dead time. In the PDL match, I worked with a center who kept the peace with players by saying "I'm right here" when action was happening. He did that to convey that he was close by and seeing what was going on and was either allowing it or to dissuade a defender from doing something silly. And it worked quite well. One thing that I will put in my back pocket.

The other one was during a State Cup final where the center referee kept telling the players what exactly happened (and again, position had a lot to do with that, since he was where he needed to be to sell the call he was making or not making). And he told them things like "I saw that, it went off your shoulder, I know you think it went off him, but you were too busy trying to head the ball that you didn't see it go off you, don't worry I got it." Things like that, it relaxed the players, especially at that level, the higher level players where things work differently than our garden variety U14 match, where players are scared to talk to the referee.

I am finding it so hard to work back down to the U12 levels now that I haven't done a low level match in 2-3 months. But this weekend, I go back to that, so hopefully I can still ref that level after working higher level matches almost exclusively for the past 2 months.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Play on Project

These past couple of weeks I started reffing more the adult league that has ethnic teams participating and that gave me an idea. A couple of months ago, I was thinking how best to say "Play on" in Spanish and there are a good three or four ways, but not sure what the official way is to say it.

Siga and Ventaja are two ways that come to mind. I will eventually look in the Spanish version of the Laws of the Game to see what word they are using specifically.

Possibly other ways, but it got me thinking with these teams that are many ethnic players that there should be a possible point of reference. So I asked the two teams, one team was mainly people from Uzbekistan and the other team was mostly from South Korea. This is what they said, though they also had a couple of ways to say it.

For Uzbek it would be something like Oyna which they said means play or dance. For Korean it was He (or possibly Je). They were a little more unanimous in stating the proper way of saying Play On. But as time goes by and I get more teams like this, I will ask them and document it as something I will call my "Play on project".

Hopefully it comes in useful to you when it is your game or you are ever on "Referee Jeopardy".

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Defending one of our own

I bet some of you reading this at home think I make some of this stuff up, but I don't. If I am posting well after an event, I may not remember all the details exactly, so that is why I am writing this one while it is really fresh in my mind.

My son plays club soccer and high school soccer as well as being a referee sometimes. Tonight he had a game and I was in attendance. As many of you know, I am not a huge fan of high school because of the different rules, the whole extension of the classroom concept and a few other things.

This evening, I recognized the center and the AR on our side. Most schools have one side for the home team parents and one side for the away team parents. That is the case at my son's school. During the second half, while my son's team is up by 6 or so, I start to hear from behind me the following comments, increasing in volume and intensity as the game winds down.

"AR, you are not even with the second to last defender."

"AR you can't keep up play."

"AR you suck."

"AR, that was a foul, raise your f***ing flag."

I knew the AR well enough to recognize that he did one of my 7 to 6 assessments, so I KNEW he was a good AR and that he was keeping up with play as best as he could and that over all, he was doing what he should be doing, not letting his guard down just because the game was 6-0 (in fact, some will say that this is the time you have to be at your most attentive, because something might blow up just as you start to get complacent).

So I turn around to the yelling parent and ask him, "Do you know Pat?" He was giving him such a hard time that I figured he must know him and was giving him a hard time because they were friends and there was some friendly ribbing going on. What he said next told me quite the contrary.

"No, I don't know who he is, but he is laughing with the coaches and he is not paying attention and he is just home cooking."

At that point I disengaged, we were in an area where there weren't many other parents and I just started looking at my phone. About 2-3 minutes later, the angry parent starts up again.

"AR, you can't call that."

"Where did you learn to hold up an offside flag?"

"The ball went out back there AR, have some f***ing balls and make them throw it in back there."

I turned around and said to the guy that it was enough, that I knew that AR and that the crew deserved more respect. He tells me to go into his face and make him stop and gets up and starts walking towards me. At that point, I figure there is nothing to gain and I try to disengage again but not before he gets close and I smell quite a bit of alcohol on him, so I say to him "Oh you're just flat out drunk, that explains everything." and walk away. A couple of parents come over to see what is going on and I watch the rest of the game from farther down the stands.

At the end of the game (7-1 was the final), the parent comes back towards me and tells me again to make him shut up, to which I laugh and walk away. I really couldn't believe that this parent would do such a thing when there was nothing to really get all riled up about. The game was a blowout, and pinning things on the AR was really not something that made much sense.

So Pat, if you are reading this and heard the guy in the second half, just know it was me that stood up for you. You did a great job tonight! All I hope is that this guy did not drive home with his kid. Hopefully his kid had a driver's license and could drive his old man home since he was probably over the limit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Great weekend a couple of weekends ago. There is a somewhat remote assignor that I enjoy working for because the association really strives to take care of the referees that are traveling. So at the last minute, I reached out to her to tell her that I could be there with my daughter (my son is on a ref break, also called having a girlfriend. Side note, he will be back, he is going to need the money).

This assignor worked her magic and got me games for Thursday, Friday and Saturday and I was able to loop it to a vacation for Saturday through Monday. So I was able to work 8 games between Thursday and Saturday while my daughter worked two matches and mostly was stand-by. I enjoyed the time because when we were done, my daughter and I went to the movies one night, went to dinner and just had a good father/daughter time and someone was actually paying us to be there for a while (and work games or be standby for a while). Still, it was a good way to loop work that I enjoy with time away from the office and other distractions to spend one on one time with my daughter. It was worth more than all the reffing I did.

One note regarding that weekend that jumps on top of what I said in a previous post about kids no really knowing the rules. The other post referenced U15 girls and not understanding advantage. This new game was more telling than the U15 girls.

The scenario was a college showcase level U16 match (read, very experienced girls playing). Score is blue 2, white 0. White is pushing hard in the last 2 minutes of the match. Their strikers makes a great move on the defender, breaks free and heads one on one with the keeper. She then fakes out the keeper and sends her sprawling and is about to tap it in the goal when the keeper reaches out and grabs her foot on the backswing and knocks her down.

I blow the whistle, point to the PK and make sure the attacker is ok. Once that is settled, I walk over to the keeper and show her the red card as she was the last defender as the shot would have been a tap in with no keeper or defender. The blue team freaks out (not the coach at least) asking why that is a red card. I thought about it for a while, how do this girls not know what the punishment is for committing a foul that essentially can negate a goal? Have they never experienced that before? Have they had this before but the other referee did not pull out a red?

Since it is a college showcase tournament, there was a no playing down requirement in the rules and therefore, the blue team brought on their other keeper. White scores the PK and the game ends about 2 minutes later, 2-1. The coach for blue said that it was the right call, so I have that going for me. But what I question or ponder in this post is that the rules are really not well known or something else is amiss. I am not sure what. Why do you think there is a lack of understanding with some of the lesser seen plays in soccer? Is it the players or the referees? Is it because we just don't have that many DOGSO situations?

Funny thing is that the only two times I have shown red cards to girls has been for DOGSO. Never have I had violent conduct, two yellows for anything, etc. Boys on the other hand, the 2-3 reds I have shown them have all been for VC, two yellows or something along those lines. No DOGSO for them, but I do recall one game many years ago where a U11 travel game would have been DOGSO had I had the guts to red card an 11 year old keeper. I am sure it is somewhere in one of my old posts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lots to talk about

Boy do I have a lot of material. I have stuff from the most recent School of Excellence meeting and also the latest College Showcase tournament I did a couple of weeks ago. Don't have a ton of time to write it all up today but I will go with something that happened this past weekend, and then work my way back in time.

This past weekend was interesting because Saturday I had the School of Excellence class in Richmond. More on that in the next entry or two. And on Sunday, I had some games for a local tournament out here in Northern VA. I got to work with my son, which you all know by now is a highlight of my weekend. He did say after this tournament that he is taking a break from refereeing so it is going to be just me and my daughter for a while (until my son realizes that he likes to do things that actually cost money).

Anyway, on those games, I had a fun couple of games. We had an intense game early, that was a semi final and then another semi that the 3rd person in our trio did (only his 3rd center in a while and he did very well by the way).

In my third match, I had the center and it was a consolation match. Both teams had finished at the bottom of their brackets and had neither scored a goal or gotten a point from their previous matches. It was a U15 girls match and when the teams were warming up, I noticed that there were more than a couple of girls that were, stockier than what I am normally used to seeing at the travel level.

I knew I was in for a ride when the teams were warming up and they were both in blue from top to bottom. Immediately one of the girls from the visiting team came to me and said, "We are the visiting team for this match, so they have to change." I checked with the home team, and three girls had forgotten their alternate jersey so I asked the visiting team and the coaches there were less than receptive to change. It was only when the offer to possibly use sweaty, smelly pennies did the visiting team state that they indeed had all their alternate white jerseys.

Game starts and as expected, the girls' play is not exactly earth shattering. They have clumsy challenges. #7 blue and #57 white immediately start jawing at each other and laughing at each other. I call a couple of fouls on blue and then I have to chat with #7 blue and then with #20 blue. Immediately after, #57 white does a hard challenge off the ball on a blue player. Out comes the card. I had not expected that. Blue seemed to be the one pushing harder and more on edge, yet white committed the first truly cardable foul.

First half ends 0-0 and #3 blue earned a card right before halftime. Second half starts and white scores two quick goals. Blue goes crazy on the second because the keeper grabs the ball and then collides with her defender and drops the ball to the white attacker's feet. Nothing I could do about that. When they protested, all I could tell them is that if it had been a white attacker colliding, it would have been a foul, but the defender collision with the keeper is fair game.

Then something interesting happened. For the first time in however many games I have been a part of, I called an offside for obstructing the vision of the goalkeeper. Shot from outside the box and the white attacker was in the way of the ball. When she jumps out of the way, then the keeper reacts and doesn't get to the ball. I look at my AR and he stands at attention, not giving me a good goal and not giving me the offside. He knew something was wrong but could not articulate exactly what. That is when I realized just how offside the attacker was when she jumped out of the way of the ball. The white coach initially asked what the call was and then when I explained, he was ok with it. Had the attacker not been where she was, the keeper would have easily gotten to ball but the fact that she jumped out of the way and then the keeper reacted to the ball told me what I needed to know.

The game then got a blue goal and then the game got really chippy. #7 blue picked up a PI card and then a very telling thing happened. Blue is pushing hard to tie, white steals the ball and makes their way upfield. Blue #14 recklessly tries to tackle white to stop play and cannot. White player stumbles but breaks through with a great pass. I call play on and then say to #14 that I have her in the book and to #57 white to not retaliate. White scores a goal on the breakaway, a perfect advantage call if there ever was one.

After recording the goal, I motion over to #14 blue and show her the yellow card. Team mate #9 blue asks why I am showing her the card. I said that #14 committed a cautionable offense but that I allowed an advantage. So she goes on to protest that I should have stopped play if I wanted to show her the card. I told her that is not how advantage works. So she says that I am favoring the other team by allowing them the goal and still giving the card. To which I reply, "I guess that on that play, I was favoring them. Why would I favor the team that tried to commit the foul?" She kept protesting and it hit me, at no time had anyone ever explained the process of advantage to her. In her mind, I just wanted them to lose. Oh well, if by U15 you still don't understand the concept of advantage, I am going to have to say that I may not be able to help out on the soccer field. Or she just picked up soccer not too long ago and that concept hasn't presented itself enough for her to figure out the process. Quite fascinating either way that I would have such a discussion.

More on the school of excellence and the College Showcase in the coming days.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Coach to player communication

Interesting thing  to speak about. Should the referee be involved in how communication goes between the coach and the players? Most often than not, you will not intervene as it is strictly tactical or encouragement issues. But if the coach crosses the line?

Case in point, this past weekend on a field by mine while I am at halftime in my match. Game is evidently tight by all the yelling and screaming from both team parents and benches, etc. Ball goes to white attacking on the left side, so totally the referee's quadrant. White player goes down after a challenge. Referee calls the foul and the blue coach gives an earful to his player, sounding somewhat hostile. Referee does not interact in this case. I did not see hear anything too terrible but I was too far away to hear everything, but the blue player did not really take kindly to whatever was said.

2-3 minutes later, same white player and blue player running down the sideline again and the white player goes down again. Referee does not call a foul in this case, and the white player is down clutching his head. Blue coach is right beside the play and yells out, "Get up you pussy. Where did you learn to dive like that, the EPL?" He goes on to talk some more to the white player not as loud. The white player eventually gets up and when play stops, the referee checks on the player and he gestures to the blue coach. I inferred something like "Are you going to deal with this?". Nothing was actually done it seems, as the referee does the universal "enough" crossing of the arms, but I was kind of appalled of the interaction.

My thought is that you talk to your players much more than what you can talk to the other team's players. And there is still a line that cannot be crossed. I probably would have addressed it had he said that to his own player, but to the other team? I would certainly have addressed it with him. To me that was unacceptable. Especially with what was said. Again, to his own team, in a non-public manner, I probably would have let it slide but publicly, I would have said something and to the other team's players, I certainly would have said something. Again, my feelings here, but would like to hear what you think about player/coach interactions like this.