Referee Nuts and Bolts – December 2009

1. When You Need an NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Interpretation

A Referee needs to get any question about rules interpretation answered quickly and correctly.

When you referee a college soccer game, it will most likely be played under the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules.  The NCAA Soccer Rules Committee used to update and republish their soccer rules book every year.  In 2008 they made a decision to update and republish every two years. The first bi-annual update takes place in 2010.

While the rules are primarily written for NCAA-affiliated colleges and universities, most of the other college sports bodies, such as NAIA, NCCAA, NJCAA, and NIRSA use the NCAA rules.  For some special competitions or tournaments these bodies may have minor adjustments for their specific competitions. However, all of the groups currently use the NCAA rules without change during the regular season.

When you have specific NCAA rules interpretation and application questions you have a lot of resources that can help with answers and detailed explanations and advice.

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee Secretary-Rules Editor serves as the official source for giving interpretations between the annual meetings of the committee. Should you need interpretation of a rule, you can, if needed, direct any question to the NCAA Interpreter.  But that is usually not needed.

As a college Referee you will have been certified and registered as a NISOA Referee, and are a member of the Local NISOA Chapter.  Each Chapter has a designated Rules Interpreter who can almost always provide an authoritative and approved NCAA Soccer Rules interpretation.  In addition, each Local NISOA Chapter has one or more NISOA Clinician(s) who can also transmit approved interpretations to you.  Both these designees have direct access to the NISOA Rules Interpreter for any clarification needed. You have only to call, e-mail, write, or speak to one of these key NISOA designees to get the information you need.

Another piece of helpful information: NCAA Soccer Rules designate the type of field mechanics that may be used to officiate a game (i.e., the Diagonal System of Control, with the Dual System of Control allowed under an exceptional circumstance), but the NCAA leaves the job of mandating the procedures for the two approved systems of mechanics to the NISOA.  If any of the questions you have concern game mechanics, your Local NISOA Chapter Rules Interpreter or Clinician(s) are the best sources to ask.

TIP:  It’s best not to let an interpretation, mechanics, or application question linger too long.  Get into the habit of seeking answers as soon as your questions arise.

TIP: Make sure you have your own copy of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rule book before the beginning of each college soccer season.  A copy of the new book is distributed to all members by NISOA as part of your annual membership package.

TIP:  If you have a question about a rules interpretation, or need advice on a mechanic or rule application, contact your NISOA Local Chapter Interpreter or Clinician first.  If they don’t have the answer (very unlikely!) they can get it for you quickly. Don’t hesitate to contact them quickly via e-mail or telephone, or speak to them at your next Local NISOA Chapter meeting.

TIP: You can always query the NISOA National Rules Interpreter or the NCAA Interpreter via e-mail or letter if needed.  All of the designees listed are there to help.  Use their help as often as you need it.

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2. When You Need an NFHS High School Soccer Rules Interpretation.

When you referee a high school soccer game, it will most likely be played under the provisions of the NFHS Soccer Rules Book.  The NFHS Soccer Rules Committee updates and republishes their soccer rules book every year before the new season starts. These NFHS Soccer Rules are used by all of the member State High School Athletic Associations. However, some of the State High School Associations have a few modifications to these NFHS rules that apply only to the schools playing within their state jurisdictions. Make sure you are aware of any modifications that your State High School Athletic Association has adopted.

As a high school soccer Referee you will have been certified and registered by your State High School Athletic Association.  Each Association has a designated State Rules Interpreter whose responsibility it is to provide answers to rules interpretation questions.

For any question that the State Rules Interpreter cannot answer, that Interpreter has access to the NFHS Soccer Rules Book Editor, who is responsible for providing answers on behalf of the NFHS Soccer Rules Committee between their annual meetings.

TIP: Any question you have on a high school rules interpretation should be addressed to you State Association’s designated Rules Interpreter.

TIP: If you are a member of an NISOA Interscholastic Local Chapter, then you can also have access to the Local Chapter Rules Interpreter or Clinician, either of whom can secure and provide authoritative answers to any rules interpretation questions you may have.  Don’t hesitate to contact them by e-mail, telephone, or to speak to them at your next Local NISOA Chapter meeting.

TIP:  It’s best not to let a rules interpretation, mechanics, or application question linger too long.  Get into the habit of seeking answers as soon as your questions pop up.

TIP: Make sure you have your own copy of the NFHS Soccer Rules Book before the beginning of each high school soccer season.  Your State Association distributes this book annually.

TIP:  There is one important item to remember concerning high school interpretation questions.  The NFHS has chosen to include the procedural specifications for the three recommended systems of game mechanics as part of its soccer rules book.  Currently, the three approved systems are: the Dual System of Control, the Diagonal System of Control, and the Double Dual System of Control.  Each State High School Athletic Association designates which of the three systems is to be used within its jurisdiction.   Unlike questions about mechanics in college soccer, any interpretation question you may have about the system of mechanics used in your state should be posed to your designated State Soccer Rules Interpreter for an authoritative answer, the same as if it concerned the interpretation of a rule.

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3. About High School Administrative Rules.

The NFHS Soccer Rules are used by most high schools throughout the country. These rules recognize that NFHS member State High School Associations may from time to time wish to use modifications to the rules in order to meet local concerns, conditions, and priorities.

Did you know that the NFHS Soccer Rules allows your State High School Association a number of opportunities to modify the rules?  Are you “up” on those instances where your State High School Association has decided to make a change?  Could you name any of the NFHS Soccer Rules that your State High School Association has chosen to change within your state? If not, then you are not really prepared to enforce the NFHS Soccer Rules correctly.

Here’s a list of 15 items based on the 2009-2010 NFHS Soccer Rules book that your State High School Association is allowed to modify:

1. Authorize a baseball-type soft-billed cap to be worn by the Goalkeeper, and soft and yielding caps may be worn by players during inclement weather (R4-S2);

2. Designate that any (or all) of the three systems of game control for use in the state (R5-S1);

3.Approve the color shirt to be worn by all Referees (R5-S1-A3);

4. Require that: time be kept by the Head referee (R6-S2);

5. Require that the official score be kept by the Head Referee (R6-S3);

6. a Reserve Official be appointed to assume duties of the Scorer (R6-S3-A3);

7. Choose to: have games of 4 twenty-minute quarters (R7-S1-A1); 8. Choose to have 4 fifteen-minute quarters for junior high school games (R7-S1-A1);

9. Choose to shorten the time periods (R7-S1-A2);

10. Designate that incomplete games less than half-completed must be replayed from start or played out from suspension of play (R7-S1-A3);

11. Establish a goal differential to decide the winner of a game (R7-S1-Ar);

12. Determine the winner in a tie game (R7-S3);

13. Determine an alternate length of time between end of regulation play and first overtime (R7-S3);

14. Establish a suspension policy regarding player and coach disqualification (R12-S8-A5);

15. Determine the officiating position to be assumed by the Reserve Official in the event one of the Referees Team is unable to complete the game. This applies to all three systems of mechanics.

TIP: Study these so that you are aware that you need to know whether each has an effect on the games you referee.  Make sure you have accurate information before each season begins on those variations that your state association has decided to use for that particular season. It is possible that your State High School Association may change the choices from time to time. Come to your very first game of every season fully prepared to enforce the rules properly.

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4. Appear confident when you make a call

The Referee who blows his whistles weakly, points the direction casually, holds head down after making a call, does not look at the incident or follow-up, or who moves slowly to the position for restart gives an appearance of uncertainly, indecision, or reluctance to handle the game and unfair play firmly.

When penalizing unfair play, it is important to appear determined in your effort to control unfair play, and confident in having made the correct decision on each and every violation you penalize.

Your aim should be to whistle sharply, indicate placement and direction firmly, focus on the incident and players involved long enough to catch follow-up unfair play or misconduct related to the call. Also, do not look down at the ground as if avoiding the eyes of those around you, or not look away from the area of play and restart while you are moving into position for that restart until you are sure that no further problem will arise from the incident, and then move smartly to you position for the restart.

If you sense a potential problem, then run over quickly to where the problem might arise and be prepared to manage the incident. Otherwise, (as above,) move on quickly to your anticipated position for restart.

Tip: Immediately after calling and managing a violation, your next set of objectives should be to: (1) control the awarded free kick process, and (2) get play restarted quickly.  When players run after the ball, and the restart of play is done quickly, there is much less chance that they will want to stop being a part of the ensuing play and waste time arguing with you over your call.

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5. Unsporting Conduct.

A 2005 survey of Coaches, Referees, and State High School Association personnel included a question asking whether they observed Referees who did not penalize unsporting conduct. Fifty eight percent who replied said: “Yes”! That means that in he observation of those responding, more than half (58%) of the incidents of “Unsporting Conduct” they witnessed were not penalized. This is a startling bit of information for us to think about, particularly since the survey was nationwide and therefore is an accurate perception of what happens throughout the country.

What this tells us is that for the Referees it means that: (a) we are either not recognizing “Unsporting Conduct,” or (b) we are perhaps unwilling or unable to handle such incidents, or that (c) we are possibly deciding that unsporting conduct can be ignored without prompt and correct action being taken. Obviously any one of these reasons leaves a lot to be desired about the competency of the Referees in the games observed.

The question we, as Referees, are left with is: how to correct this serious performance deficit?

Tip: One way to begin is by realizing that every time you fail to penalize unsporting conduct, your control of that game is in danger of failing. Once teams see a Referee who is not willing to consistently address misconduct, the conduct of both teams will become more and more unacceptable in the game.

Tip: If you are not sure of the specific types of acts that constitute “Unsporting Conduct” in particular, you need to work on that deficit now! Ask for discussions and analysis of these types of infringements, and of the appropriate control techniques to consider, through your NISOA Local Chapter or your local Referee group meetings. Also take opportunities to discuss these violations with fellow Referees and Assessors, or with your colleagues during the post-game Referee Team de-briefings you attend. In addition, attend local games to observe how other Referees handle these acts.  Take as many available and practical opportunities as you can to improve your recognition and handling of “Unsporting Conduct.”

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