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 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