Published on April 29, 2016


By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

Every intercollegiate official that wants to improve game control and game management must have the skill of anticipating play. Being in the best position at the critical time in the game will allow the official to make the proper call and manage the flow of the game.
Webster has several definitions for anticipation and each can easily be applied to interscholastic soccer officiating. The following definitions are provided by Webster:

  • Preparing for something
  • Prior action forestalls a later action
  • Visualization of a future event

Many of the better officials at any level prepare for a game in several ways. These include proper nutrition so that the officials have energy throughout the game. Maintaining a balanced diet with sufficient types of food that help store energy should be the norm. Also, officials must properly hydrate before the game, during half time and after the game. This will allow the officials’ muscles to recover and be ready for the next assignment.

Physical training is another way to prepare for a game. It has been often said that officials cannot referee their way into shape. Officials must begin training long before the season begins and continue training during the season to ensure they have the conditioning needed to properly move up and down the field and be in the best position possible for the entire game. Also, physical training helps reduce the potential for injury. Muscle pulls are more common for individuals who have not properly trained.
Another example of preparing for a game is a complete and thorough pre-game discussion between the referee, assistant referees and alternate official. This discussion, not lecture, allows all officials to mentally prepare for the game and discuss various play situations that may occur during the game. This helps the officiating team anticipate actions that may occur during the game. For example, a discussion on what each official should do in the event of a foul that warrants an ejection. By anticipating what may happen, such as retaliation, each official will be prepared to take preventative actions to reduce the possibility of the situation escalating.

Visualizing what might happen during a game and how officials will react is another form of anticipation. Many officials think about a particular play that could occur during a game and how they will deal with it and what position they should be in when the play begins. Some officials do this on the way to the game, others talk about it during pre-game, and still others begin the process at least 24 hours before the assignment. This type of preparation allows officials to anticipate the action as it is beginning to happen during the game.

During the pregame warm-up officials can anticipate potential actions by observing the players. Taking a few moments to determine who appears to be a very skillful player will allow officials to know who may be a “target” of the opponents. This will allow officials to anticipate potential fouls on the particular player. Another item to observe is which player(s) are being overly aggressive during the warm-up time. This may be an indicator of what players are apt to commit hard fouls during the game. Again, this anticipation will allow officials to be prepared when they observes the particular player acting aggressively during the game.

During the game officials have the opportunity to anticipate play in many different ways. One way is to be prepared on restarts such as goal kicks and free kicks. Teams tend to be consistent with restarts. For example, on a goal kick, is the kick being kicked near the halfway or further? If so officials should take a position so that they can be near play when the ball arrives. If the goal kicks are shorter and to a teammate who then moves the ball up field, officials should take a position closer to where the player who is about to receive the ball. The same anticipation applies to free kicks. If the team taking the kick normally kicks the ball far down field, officials should be near to where the ball is going to arrive so that they are able to observe any fouls or problems.

During dynamic play officials must anticipate what is going to happen next so that they can be prepared to be in a good position. Also, by anticipating play, officials can put themselves in a position so that the player’s passing lane is not adversely impacted. Anticipation allows officials to move to a position easier and reduces the number of long sprints that are required to make up distance when officials were not ready for the next play.

The last form of anticipation to be discussed is that of retaliation. If a player commits a hard foul, especially on one of the key players from the opposing team, retaliation is more than likely to occur. Officials may have to move quickly to the point of the foul to prevent immediate retaliation. Also, the officials must anticipate that retaliation may take place at a future time in the game. Officials must remember the number of who committed the original foul and be prepared if an opponent decides to retaliate.

In summary, top officials know how to anticipate play. This allows officials to be in the best position possible during the entire game.

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