Referee Nuts and Bolts – July 2009

By Bob Sumpter, NISOA

The fifth volume in this monthly series contains another five short articles addressing NISOA Referee skills and information that is potentially helpful to those members who wish to improve their levels of personal Soccer Referee performance and competence.

In this monthly series, each article covers a single, well-defined topic, along with advice about the importance of the information presented to your success.

1. Anticipating a Caution

Past data tells us that 60% of all cautions issued usually come in the second half of the game.  Of those, most occur in the last 30 minutes of the second half.  That “bunches” a large number of misconduct incidents in the waning minutes of the game. The obvious lesson is that misconduct tends to get worse as the game nears its end.

You can guess some of the reasons for this from your own observations and experience as a Referee.  Players get tired, (and depending on how the game has gone for their team) frustrated and aggressive as the game goes on and their fitness level decreases while they tire.

As the game gets rougher, some Referees get apprehensive about increased aggressiveness but seem reluctant to use a caution to correct misconduct.  A number of Referees express the outlook that using a caution should only be a “last resort”, preferring instead to counsel a player committing misconduct in order to convince the player to correct misbehavior without immediate punishment.  Also, some Referees seem to think that when the end of the game is approaching, it’s best to wait out the closing whistle and avoid misconduct cautions.

Most of these attitudes are not based on sound judgment, and usually create unnecessary trouble for the Referee and for the game.  Unfortunately, some of these attitudes are adopted by the less experienced Referee who seeks to avoid trouble on the field.

Tip:  One of your prime objects in a game is to maintain control and see that the game is fair, safe, and enjoyable.  To accomplish this, you must enforce the rules when they are breached.

Tip: Anticipate a possible problem.  You should be aware of the time periods discussed above, and be alert to the probability that misconduct incidents are more likely as the game nears its end. Be alert and deal with incidents quickly.  Obviously, you should do the same at all times during a game, but knowing that the chances for misconduct are raised in the final minutes of play should make you want to be as strong and alert at the end of the game as you did when the game began.

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2. Learn to count!

One of the more effective ways to keep proper control over participant behavior is to develop the habit of keeping a mental count of how many fouls are committed by players as the game progresses.

The Referee can do so by mentally linking the count for each player with the player’s jersey number and color each time you call a foul.

After some practice, the Referee can become familiar with patterns of players who commit more than a normal number of fouls in any given game (whatever that “normal” number may be in your games!)

Once you’ve become aware of a player, or players, who tend to commit more unfair play than others, you can then try to encourage them to improve their behavior in general.

Tip:  One method, before the second half begins, is to have a quick word with a player your have observed with more fouls than others, letting him/her know that you counted “x” fouls and that it might be getting into the misconduct stage.  Such a brief word might well be appreciated by the player.

Another tip: When a player crosses the line into misconduct such as “persistent infringement”, you can issue the required Caution and know (as well as state in a post-game report) that you did act on the basis of a count of previous infringements so as to avoid any sense of an unfair decision.

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3. Is there a magic answer for achieving excellence?

One of the things I became aware of during my time as a Referee was that there is no magic answer to the challenge of how to excel at the task, or to overcome any of the problems experienced along the way.  However there are many alternative ways that you can try out to successfully manage game problems.  You need to learn and try as many different approaches as you can to solve problems, and then retain for your own use the techniques that you find successful in practice.

Think of all of the fellow Referees you have watched over the years.  As you get the chance to see their games, you become aware that Referees differ markedly when handling similar types of problems.  Yet, as many different discretionary techniques and procedures as you witness, the more successful Referees all manage to succeed at the art of refereeing, even though their approaches to the similar problems differ.

I realized early on that unless I myself tried to use a technique that worked successfully for another Referee that I would not learn whether or not it was appropriate for me to use. In this sense, I learned to keep an open mind on trying new ideas. It is only through trying out new ideas that you can add to the fund of different approaches to game and participant control that will help you become successful.

Tip: There are many different ways to successful Referee performance on the field.  Observe and study other Referees as often as possible.  Then, try out those approaches to controlling field problems that seem both successful and suited to your refereeing personality.  Keep and use those you test out and find are successful for you.  Over time, you will improve your own performance.

Tip: Don’t reject any new idea or suggestion out of hand.  I learned that even the many seemingly simplest or minor field skills that I adopted over time made a positive difference in my own performance.  Learn not to reject an idea you’ve not yet tried until you have found in practice that it doesn’t work for you. Overall skill on the field most often results from an accumulation and use of many, many skills that add up to competent performance.

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4. Supervising the other game officials

A good many Referees believe that the Referee Team (i.e., Referee, Assistant Referees, Alternate Referee) are the only officials who have responsibilities in seeing that the game is properly conducted.  However both college and high school rules specify duties for a Timekeeper/Timer, Scorekeeper/Scorer, and Ball Persons/Ball Holders to help.  These two sets of rules also give the Referee oversight of their functions.

With that oversight comes the need for the Referee (and Referee Team) to meet with each named official pre-game, so as to see that each understands the job to be done.

For the Timekeeper or Timer meeting, in addition to reviewing the stated duties, make sure to explain and demonstrate clearly your signals concerning timeouts, substitutions, end-of-periods, clock stoppages, and how to communicate with you in the event of clock malfunction or an improper substitution problem.

For the Scorekeeper or Scorer meeting, in addition to reviewing the stated duties, make sure to state clearly how to communicate with you about eligibility problems as soon as discovered.

For the Ball Persons or Ball Holders, realize that many schools recruit volunteers to retrieve and return the out-of-bounds-balls, and that all too often the schools assume that these volunteer Ball Persons know how to perform the duties correctly. You should not make this assumption.  Instead, take the needed minutes to speak to the Ball Persons as a group, and how you or your Referee Team will signal if needed.

TIP:  Take this responsibility seriously. Even though the rules give the responsibility of furnishing the Timekeeper/Timer, Scorekeeper/Scorer, and Ball Persons/Ball Holders, to the competing teams, it is your responsibility to instruct and supervise these game officials.  Pay the same attention to pre-game instruction of each as you would to the pre-game briefing of your Referee Team. The few minutes taken to instruct properly will help insure a more professionally conducted game.

TIP: Understand that the rules give you supervision over the conduct and performance of these officials during the game.  In any instance where you judge they are not performing their assigned duties properly, and it affects the proper conduct of the game, you have the power to dismiss them from any further participation.  This may well happen in the case of the Timekeeper/Timer and Ball Persons/Ball Holders.  It is less likely in the case of the Scorekeeper/Scorer, since you will not be aware of any performance problems with this

individual until after the game ends and you have to then verify the record being kept.

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5. Stay away from trouble

Often, when you observe an experienced Referee make a call to penalize a violation, you will see that the Referee does not usually go over to either address the player or to see that the ball is placed correctly.  This is a good example to think about.

Unless there is some good reason for the Referee to go over and have a brief word with the player committing the foul, it is best to stay away.  The player is likely not too happy about being penalized. Going over and conversing with the player (unless there is a need to do so), or going over to the point of the infringement to either place the ball or oversee the restart is usually not necessary.  It may also result in the player taking the opportunity to confront you about the call.  Not a good idea.  Instead, once the call is made move directly to a position from which you can both anticipate the restart and the next area of play.

There are, of course, some instances when the Referee will want to go over to the point of the violation to oversee corrective action. As an example: if at the spot of a foul two opponents are confronting each other. Another time is if a possible injury has occurred. Also, in some cases, if there is a restart delay that needs your supervision.

Tip: If you can, after making a call, stay away and move to your best position to oversee the restart and anticipate the area of play into which play will develop.  It will be more helpful to your game control to anticipate that next area of play.

Tip: When you call a violation and decide that the situation after the call requires you to do so, get over to the spot of the infringement quickly, take care of the problem as quickly as possibly, and then restart the game quickly.

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