Case Study: The Spirit of the Game

As is always the case, the scenarios described in Ripped are based on actual experiences shared with iTooTr by the referees involved.  Certain details are changed to protect the anonymity of the referees involved.

In an important match between two boys under 19 teams, there are 16 seconds left in overtime, with the White team up 1-0.  A player on the Blue team is injured, and doesn’t quickly get up, so the White team goalkeeper throws the ball in to touch. The injured player is given medical attention and is safely removed from the field of play.

In the spirit of fair play, the referee asks the Blue team to throw the ball in to the White  side’s goalkeeper. The Blue player taking the throw declines to do so, and takes the throw in to restart the match.  The ball is quickly played near the White penalty area where a White defender makes a tactical move to handle the ball. The referee whistles for the foul, which is just outside the penalty area.  The referee also administers a caution to the offending White team defender for the tactical foul.

With approximately 10 seconds remaining in stoppage time, the Blue team scores directly from the resulting free kick. The referee whistles for full time, and now kicks from the mark will determine the winner of the match.  The Blue team kicks first, and the first kick is saved by the White keeper.  In the process of celebrating the save, the White keeper runs up to the Blue kicker, loudly taunts him, and is subsequently sent off by the referee, consistent with the rules of competition.

In the end, the Blue team prevails during KFTM and is the winner of the match.

What, if anything, could the referee have done differently that might have prevented the  situation at the end of the match?  Could the referee have taken any action that might have prevented the ugly confrontation between the Blue kicker and White goalkeeper during the KFTM phase of the match?

Guest Blog: Route R-6, Part 4

Assessments, assessments, assessments… They are what all referees want to know about. I left this topic until now for a reason, though. Successful assessments are a result of everything mentioned above. They happen because you DID the preparation, training, study, networking, listening, and hard work BEFORE the assessment. Not to say they will all be successful, or even passing, but your chances increase with your amount of preparation. I should know. I was officially assessed 21 times in 2012 alone!

Eight of the twenty-one assessments were at the Region 3 Championships in South Carolina. I had eight games over the course of eight days consisting of one center, one 4th official, and six lines. These were more developmental assessments in nature, but several of them had an assessor assessing an assessor. I received double assessments on four of my eight matches at Regionals. I left there a better referee from the experience of working with the best referees our twelve state region has to offer. I am still honored to have been selected to represent Georgia. In fact, I mentally made the “shift” to a state referee in South Carolina.

Prior to the tournament, I had three non-competitive center assessments on men’s amateur games. Non-competitive became a theme.On my overall twelfth assessment attempt, I passed my line assessment on a NPSL match. I caught quite a bit of grief for doing my line assessment before passing my center assessments, but I took advantage of a quality match. One down, two to go, but surgery interrupted the momentum I had carried from Regionals.

As I was recovering my form, I passed another couple of line assessments on a friend’s maintenance assessment and on a college match. Number 15 was the gem of the bunch. I passed my first center assessment on a Developmental Academy match. Everything fell into place – great game, great weather, and great crew. As an aside, whenever you have an assessment game, get higher-grade ARs for your game! I was now one out of four on center assessments. Unfortunately, that quickly became one out of six.

Non-competitive numbers four and five occurred on men’s amateur games. I worked other games in the same league unassessed that would not have counted either, so I decided to try my luck at finding a competitive match in a Huntsville, Alabama amateur league. Another referee friend and I made the day trip for a sterling double header of my sixth non-competitive and his abandoned match, thanks to a fight and a team not having enough players to continue. That game was the most interesting of the twenty-one, despite only lasting 30 minutes. Numbers 19 and 20 were passing line assessment on friends’ maintenances.

I was running out of time and options, as the men’s amateur league only had a few weeks left in 2012. I got a plumb assignment, though, between the first division’s top two teams at the time. Come to find out, they did not care for one another too much. I worked harder on lucky number 21 than I had on any other assessment game. It was non-stop for 95 minutes. I managed players the entire match and kept several cards in my pocket as a result. I finally had my second passing center on my seventh try.

Guest Blog: Route R-6, Part 3

I will step off my soap box and explain some of the stats in my first post.  I drove 20,904 miles roundtrip in 2012 doing a very conservative estimate of 150 games between USSF, college, and high school, of which the two latter certainly benefit the former in regard to speed of play and player management.  All that driving took me to at least 50 venues, some out of state.  Because of the price of gas and food on the road for this amount of travel, upgrades are not cheap.  I certainly did not make $20,000 for my efforts and mileage!  I logged 1,748 miles of activity for the year through my sprinting, running, jogging, and walking.  Granted, not all of this was from soccer, but according to my fitness tracker, I traveled a distance greater than the Great Barrier Reef.  In preparation for all these games and for the five fitness tests, I finally dropped that 20 pound flat tire around my waist.  I also had surgery mid-year, which required getting back into shape post-op.  My mid-thirties self “topped out” at 151 pounds and 13% body fat leading into surgery, by the way.

The upgrade process was not all physical, though.  Preparing for, taking, and passing seven tests throughout the year was time-consuming.  Advanced referees have to stay on top of new directives and federation position papers.  Study is an ongoing process through periodically rereading the Laws of the Game, or rules of competition.  All the fitness tests and laws/rules tests were incorporated into 17 days of clinics scattered throughout the year.  As if all of that was not enough, I made the effort to attend 21 referee training sessions.  Players and teams practice, yet referees almost exclusively just work games, often in isolated settings.  I was fortunate to get involved with a former FIFA referee’s training program for referees and helped start a parallel program to serve an even larger area.  Simply put, practicing being a referee made me a better referee.  It seems simple, but training allowed my assessments to be successful.  Did I say assessment“S”?

Next time: Matt walks us through his 21 assessments in 2012.


Guest Blog: Route R-6, Part 2

Ed. Note: If you missed Part 1, click here to catch up.

If you are considering an upgrade to R-7 or above, please be realistic about your refereeing goals.  Take a look at my numbers in the previous post.  I admit that I went to an extreme, but any successful upgrade requires a level of commitment and determination over and above being your local club’s “Big Fish in a Small Pond” and just working some weekend games.  Especially for the R-6, you have to branch out and get away from your comfort zone, work a wider area, with different people, network with higher-level referees and administrators, and put in the hard work.  No one can have a successful upgrade alone.  Working with fellow referees, mentors, and assessors combined with the commitment to hard work, being coachable and adaptable is where success can be found.

“Wanting better games” is not enough for a successful and long-lasting upgrade.  Better games come as a result of hard work and improvement, not the other way around.  You need goals like self-betterment, becoming an instructor, assessor, or assignor, or expanding your knowledge and skill base in order to mentor other, younger referees.   These are some of the goals to keep in mind for making an upgrade successful.  That said, your follow-through after any upgrade is paramount.  It does neither you, your state, nor the game any good to upgrade and then do nothing with it.  Advanced referees must give back by paying it forward for the next generations.  Advanced referees are the examples that the referee masses look to.  We set the bar.

Take into consideration your age, experience, and physical tools.  Not to be harsh, but “I’ve been a R-8 (or R-7) for x-number of years, so I plan on upgrading” is not enough.  Any advanced grade upgrade has to lead to something else.  Simply getting to the next level for advancement’s sake misses the much larger picture.  Advanced referees cannot plateau.  Not everyone can be a R-6 or higher, but none of us can rest on our laurels.  Advanced referees are advanced for a reason.  We must all continue our development.

Coming up in Part 3: Matt explains the extraordinary stats behind his upgrade.


Guest Blog: Route R-6, Part 1

Ed. Note: Today we welcome guest blogger Matt Jackson to In The Opinion Of The Referee.  Matt will be writing about his experiences as he worked toward his Grade 6 (State Referee) badge.

My name is Matt Jackson, and I am a R6 referee from Newnan, Georgia.  I am an elementary school teacher in real life.

I started refereeing in 2008.  My wife and I were driving my oldest son to referee soccer tournaments all around the metro Atlanta area.  We quickly noticed his pocket full of cash and our empty gas tank.  She and I both decided to get certified.  We both spent one season with our R9 blue badges before upgrading to our R8 black badges.  We spent several years working youth games and tournaments as a family, adding our other son and our oldest daughter to the refereeing ranks along the way.  I upgraded to a R7 and started refereeing high school soccer in 2010.  I started refereeing college soccer in 2011 and completed both my R6 upgrade and associate instructor course in 2012.  I have worked NASL preseason, W-League, NPSL, WPSL, NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, US Soccer Developmental Academy, ECNL, R3PL, NFHS, and various youth level matches, as well as being named to the Georgia delegation for the 2012 Region 3 Championships.  I also help coordinate the Olimpo City South referee training program.  Two of my children still referee, and one is quickly climbing the ranks despite his young age.

So, referee upgrade, piece of cake, right?  Take a look at these numbers and let them sink in for a minute:

By The Numbers: Matt’s Route to R-6

Chart 1

Quite a year, huh?  These are the staggering numbers that I compiled during 2012 in search of my R-6 State Referee badge.

When In The Opinion Of The Referee asked if I would share my upgrade experience, I had no idea these numbers were indeed what I had put into a calendar year.  No wonder I was tired all the time!  Thank goodness that I did not know these totals while I was going through the process…

I guess that is the point of any upgrade cycle.  It is truly a process.  R-8s are not automatically going to be R-7s.  R-7s and are not just going to get to a R-6.  R-6s don’t just become R-5s or beyond.  There is a transforming process for each step of the upgrade ladder.  I thought I was good as a R-9 referee, for crying out loud!  I naively thought I would get my R-6 upgrade assessments done quickly, easily, and early in the year.  Boy, could that have been further from the way it actually happened.

Now that I am on this side of the process, though, I am amazed at the growth that I have gone through over the course of this and previous years.  In fact, I was talking to a recently upgraded R-7 referee friend about this growth.  He and I both remarked about how cool it has been to see our ability to read the game improve by such a noticeable degree through each of our upgrades.  He and I also are looking forward to where that continued development will take each of us.  We are not necessarily doing our respective upgrades for any kind of status, but we definitely want to see how far we both can develop our refereeing skills.  That is the amazing part of future upgrades for me – how much better will I be then than I am right now.

Ahead in Part 2: Be Sure About Your Motivation