Referee Nuts and Bolts – September 2009

By Bob Sumpter, NISOA


Welcome to the seventh volume of “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts.  The four short topics in this month’s column should present at least one new idea to consider trying out to improve your NISOA College and High School refereeing activities.

This series is called “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” because it tries to address a small, well defined topic in a basic, practical, and common sense way so that you can absorb the information presented easily and put it into practice quickly.

– – – – –

1. Try to Hurry Up With the Subs.

Playing time that is wasted in making player substitutions is often a major cause for lost game time.  As Referee, you should want to try to reduce as much wasted time as possible.  Increasing actual playing time helps the game and your game control in that players concentrate more on the game rather than behavior issues that often arise during “down time.”

Repetitive substitution stoppages work against maximizing game time.  You should remain alert to deliberate time wasting by repetitive substitution, and use your control over playing time by stopping the clock to counter unfair, tactical delays through substitutions.  There’s nothing like stopping the clock when a team uses substitutions to waste time in order to reinforce the idea that you are not about to allow the rules to be unfairly used in the game.

You can also help avoid or minimize potential time wasting through substitutions by insisting that substitute players are to be at the scorer’s table and ready to go onto the field before the stoppage, or to have reported to the nearest official directly from the official’s area at the stoppage.

Of course, see that all procedures outlined for substitution are followed. The game officials are to ensure that these are followed.

Tip: Controlling time wasting at substitutions can help move the game by seeing that substitutions are carried out as quickly as possible. Be alert to situations where you observe that the procedure is being used as a tactic to unfairly change the pace of a game. Make sure that time wasting during the procedure does not become an unfair tactic.

– – – – –

2. How About a Missed Signal?

When a player commits a violation that the Assistant Referee in the Diagonal System of Control is expected to indicate to the Referee, the mechanic and signal is for the Assistant Referee to: (1) stop moving,(2) raise the flag straight up overhead, (3) give a short wave to attract the attention of the Referee, (4) hold the position until recognized and whistled by the Referee, (5) give, if appropriate, an indication of the type of violation involved, and (6) then point with the flag to the spot where the restart should take place.

The normal question that comes up immediately in Referee discussions of this mechanic is what to do if the Referee misses the Assistant Referee’s signal for a violation.

The appropriate advice for the Assistant Referee is to wave the flag again, hold the signal for a short time, then if still missed by the Referee, move on to the next position.

If a goal is scored by the offending team directly after the missed violation, and if in the opinion of the Assistant Referee the violation resulted in an unfair goal, then the Assistant Referee would be expected to communicate that information to the Referee after the goal was scored BUT before the game was restarted, in order to allow the Referee to consider the information and make a correct goal award decision before continuing the game.

Remember one primary objective of the Referee Team is to insure a fair game. In this case, it’s the Assistant Referee who bears the responsibility to call the problem to the Referee’s attention.

Tip: As the Referee, make sure you cover this mechanic, however briefly, in your pre-game briefing for the Referee Team. If a signal is missed, it is the responsibility of the Assistant Referee to make sure the information gets to the Referee before a game restart in any situation where a goal has come as a result of the missed signal.

– – – – –

3. Make a Caution count!

The formal disciplinary action of issuing a Caution to a player, coach, or other team personnel is meant to be a strong tool for the Referee in controlling participant misbehavior.  However like any other tool it works better if you concentrate on learning how to use it to best advantage.

The Caution is more effective when issued firmly and when it not used too often in a game.  Overuse (i.e., too many cautions in a game) can dilute the impact it has to help control player behavior. That’s one reason the Referee needs to make every Caution count!

How do you do that?  Here are some basics.

Tip: BELIEVE that an earlier caution is better for the game, before player misbehavior becomes too intense to correct.  Unpunished misconduct early in a game usually generates more misconduct when, later on in the game, it is seen by the other participants as not firmly handled.

Tip:  Take action early in a game to set the standard of acceptable conduct.  Apply the standard you set consistently to all players.  Every player committing an infringement gets penalized!

Tip:  It’s best to penalize the very first incident of misconduct in a game.  Don’t wait and hope that player behavior will improve all by itself without any action on your part if you let the first one or two incidents go without punishment. You are there to see that misconduct and unfair play does not take place. Don’t delay a caution.  Misconduct only gets progressively worse and harder to control if not addressed promptly.

Tip:  Follow the correct procedure whenever issuing a caution.  Stop play, approach the player, record name and jersey number, inform player he/she is cautioned, inform the player of the specific reason (i.e., ONLY one of those listed in the rule book), inform player that if misconduct recur, ejection will follow, inform score keeper and bench, then-and only then-restart play.  Do NOT skip a step in the procedure.

Tip:  Follow up post-game with a written report, as required by the schools or conference involved. If not required for the schools or conference involved, then write one out and file it for your own benefit, as a self-study resource that you can use later to review your handling of the situation to determine if you could have acted more effectively.

– – – – –

4. Burnout is self-inflicted

We sometimes hear that a Referee is “burned out” and no longer enjoys or wants to referee college or high school soccer games. When that occurs, it is often often because that burnout is self-inflicted.

Every Referee needs to examine and set personal priorities for family, job, and then such other pursuits and avocations as soccer officiating. In soccer, it’s common for an individual to get caught up doing “duty” in too many aspects of the game.

As one example: if you first enter the sport through the average youth soccer family experience, you might serve in more than one capacity as: team coach or assistant, referee, assigner, league officer, team mother or manager, instructor, or volunteer. If you choose to volunteer further, you may become involved with planning and administering local, state, regional or even national tournaments or competitions.

Once your become a Referee, you may also sign on as instructor, assessor, assigner, or Referee chapter member or officer. You may also expand your refereeing to include youth amateur, high school, college, adult amateur, and perhaps semiprofessional and professional competitions.  Also, there is the attraction of being involved in “National Referee” programs where you are invited to officiate at regional and national competitions.

Perhaps your previous experience as a player at any or all of the types of soccer led you to become involved as a Referee and in other aspects of the game as well.  These all lead to possible “burnout.”

The point is that it is not uncommon for an individual to attempt to devote too much time and effort by spreading too thin over too many opportunities for participation in the game.

Tip: You can avoid burnout.  Review and decide on your priorities for family, job and outside activities. Make sure you define these in terms of what and why you want to commit. Limit your commitments to a sensible level. Do not over commit.  You need to enjoy your involvement without negatively affecting the other elements of a “normal” life.

– – – – –