Referee Nuts and Bolts – February 2010

By: Bob Sumpter, NISOA, Florida

This monthly column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those basic techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are often forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing.  The short discussions and accompanying tips stress important advice for competent performance.

The February 2010 column includes discussions entitled: “Another Difference Is Skill”, “Fitness At Competitive Levels”, “Practice a Basic Skill to Manage Encroachments”, and “Accept Your Role.”

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XII-1, Another Difference Is Skill.

A more sophisticated level of player skill is another difference the Referee meets when officiating at the more competitive levels in both college and high school games.

Players in more competitive games tend to execute their individual and team skills at a much faster work rate than at other levels.  The Referee has therefore to be more alert, observant, and knowledgeable about what players are doing and trying to accomplish as they move through a game.

Some playing skills are so artfully executed, either singly or by two or more players acting in concert that a lot of your game management depends upon how well you anticipate what will happen so that you can be ready to shift your attention to the next sequence of movements.

One requirement for the Referee who aspires to move to more competitive levels of officiating is to become as familiar with the way more accomplished players execute in their games so that when the first competitive assignment is gotten, he or she will not be taken by surprise at what is happening around the field.

Tip:  To do that, you have to get as much knowledge, background and familiarity with the more competitive play as you are able before accepting your first assignment.  Attend, view, and study that level game every chance you get.  Discuss this level of competitive play with players, coaches, and with other Referee colleagues who have experience at these types of competitions to understand individual and team tactics and skills about which you may not be familiar.  Read accounts that analyze this level of competition.  Develop as much of an understanding as possible before you begin and as you continue to referee at that level.

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XII-2, “Fitness at Competitive Levels”

When you referee at a more competitive level, increased player fitness, speed, and endurance will become more challenging to your game management.

Covered elsewhere is the need to try game control techniques that require you to get close at times to players who you sense might offer misconduct problems if not dealt with promptly.

If a player moves faster than you are accustomed to, then you have to learn to move as fast as possible to get close to that player when closer oversight is needed.  To use some the available and effective player control techniques you will have to be fast and as endurance-capable as the players.

One technique already discussed is to digress from your running pattern to get close to the player without getting in the way of play.  Your aim in doing this is not to have that player necessarily aware that you have come close, but be close enough so that when he or she turns at some point and unexpectedly sees you close by, the player will be warned without words being exchanged.  That technique will underscore that he or she is under closer scrutiny than realized.  In a way, it’s like silently saying “Hello there!” to a player without speaking the words.

Another technique also mentioned before is to get and stay close behind a player with possible misconduct potential from time to time so that, should that player commit a violation or other unacceptable behavior, your nearby whistle will make the player cringe from the sharp sound and underscore that you are indeed paying attention to his or her conduct and are taking corrective action.  This technique does work on many players and can help avoid conduct problems.

Tip:  You need to develop and follow a personal fitness and endurance training program.  Once you achieve improved fitness and endurance you can more effectively use specific player and game control techniques that rely on your personal ability to move as fast as, and maintain endurance to last as long as, the players.  If your ability to endure is not now good enough, understand that it takes time to build it up, so start now and maintain your personal fitness and endurance program throughout your career.

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XII-3, “Practice a Basic Skill To Manage Encroachments”

There are many basic soccer Referee skills that will serve you well throughout your career.  One of the simpler of these is the ability to measure and enforce a distance of 10 yards in any direction from a ball placed on the ground for a restart by just looking at the ball and determining where opposing players are allowed to stand at the restart.

Obviously, this skill has to do with your control of encroachment at restarts.

This skill usually involves two sub-skills.  The first is to determine where that ball should be properly placed for the restart and to make sure that it has not been moved once properly placed.

The second is to be able to measure a set distance from the ball by looking and determine if opponents are closer than the allowed 10 yards.

Tip: To initially acquire the skill of visually determining a 10-yard distance, you should begin by first laying out a series of 10-yard distances and practice pacing the distance until you can pace off the distance accurately. That will help give you the “feel” of the distance.

Tip: Next, practice a series of exercises by having a colleague setting markers on the ground at varying distances apart, and then checking to see if you can visually judge which sets of markers are the 10-yard distance apart. You will eventually become accurate in your visual estimates of a 10-yard distance from any angle through repetition of this practice exercise. At that point, your control over encroachment will become easier to enforce.

Tip: When overseeing the ball placement, look around the ball to spot any ground feature that will help you visually verify that the ball was not moved should you turn your attention away during the stoppage to oversee another part of the restart.  Once you turn your attention away, and then look back at the ball placement before allowing the restart, look for the ground feature to make sure the ball was not moved.

Tip: When making sure opponents are 10 yards from the ball, do it by looking only, and signaling the opponents of the team taking the kick to the position to which they need to move.  Once they have taken the correct position, then also look for a ground feature that will remind you of their correct distance and placement if needed.  Also, if the opponents delay and you choose the Referee technique of being the “first brick in the wall” to control them, then run immediately to the spot that you have determined is the required 10 yards from the ball, and have the opponents move to that distance.

Tip:  For a variety of reasons, it is not a good idea to pace off the 10 yards from the ball to the required distance! Instead, learn to measure it visually from where you first were.  Continued pacing off of the required distance by you will eventually be used by the more competitive player to challenge and lessen your game control by questioning your judgment in order to test your authority to “determine all facts in connection with the game.”

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XII-4, “Accept Your Role”

Your role involves managing the game and participants to see that the game is played within the letter and spirit of the rules.

This often means that the participants may not like the way you manage the game.  Sometimes it’s only the losing team, sometimes it’s both teams. No matter!  You risk losing popularity every time you step onto to field to referee a game.

Many Referees do not like the feeling of being unpopular.  However, if you referee all of your games in a fair and objective way, showing respect for the participants while not hesitating to discipline those who merit it, you will – over a period of time – earn the respect of those you oversee.

As suggested elsewhere, one aim should be to build a reputation for fairness and objectivity, so that when teams see you enter a field they will feel that they have to play fairly today because you will not allow any other conduct on either side.

Some of you may remember the old radio, movie, and television character of the “Lone Ranger.”  He was always described as “the stranger with the mask, riding the white horse.” His image was always one of assuring justice in the old west.  That reputation for justice and fairness was always associated with the character, and people instinctively respected him for that image. That’s a good example to think of.

Tip:  Always referee with fairness and objectivity, and always enforce the rules in both letter and spirit.  That’s the reputation and image you want to develop. The result will be: Respect = Yes! Popularity = No!