Referee Nuts and Bolts – December 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 sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing.  The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.

This December 2010 column includes three discussions entitled:

20-1: “Avoid Burnout”

20-2: “Do I Still Need To Study?”, and

20-3: “One Brief Technique for Preventive Refereeing”

Your comments, questions, and thoughts about these BASIC topics are always welcome. You can contact me directly via email.

1. “Avoid Burnout”

Have you ever become aware of a referee colleague who seems to not enjoy the games he/she officiates?  Or, perhaps, have you ever observed a referee colleague in a game where he/she seems to be less than enthusiastic about performing to the optimum level of competence?

If so, the reason may be that your colleague is experiencing burnout, that loss of interest and enthusiasm that interferes with top-flight performance on the field. It’s really more common to experience or abserve that we realize.

When this happens, it usually is because of having become over-committed and over-involved in soccer-related activities. It’s an easy condition to develop. Being an active soccer participant is – for all of us – fun, and some of us do overdue it at times. Unless you are a full-time professional, there are always other commitments (family, work, etc.)  that press on the time we have available to engage in any and all activities we wish to, or are required to,  be a part of.

One way to avoid experiencing this is to take stock over how we allocate our available time in our daily lives, set priorities in sensible proportions, and learn how to enjoy all aspects of our lives.

You should ask the following set of questions of yourself every so often, but certainly when you recognize that feeling of burnout overtaking you.

1. Understand that top priorities should be to set your specific goals for your personal life. (Q) Have I specific goals for my involvement in family, profession, and my religious or principled life?

2. After that, have I set my goals about the time and availability for discretionary activities?

3. As regards soccer, which should be included in considering question 2, (Q) how much time and effort do I want to spend as an Intercollegiate or Interscholastic Referee?

4. Beyond that (Q) how do I want to spend time and effort to become qualified and active as a Referee Instructor, or Referee Assessor?

5. Also, (Q) do I want to try to become  a:  Coach or Assistant, Team Officer, Soccer Parent, Referee Assigner, League Officer, Volunteer, or other task-oriented contributor in soccer-related activities?

6. (Q) Do I want to be involved in Local, State, Regional, National soccer organizations?

7. (Q) Do I also want to referee youth, adult amateur, college, or other competitions?

8. (Q) How often would I like to attend and enjoy soccer games as a spectator?

9. (Q) How many days, evenings, weekends, times a week, times a month, or times a year may  I devote to soccer activities without short-changing my other priorities.

After you develop the information and estimates in response to these questions, then compare those estimates against the priorities needed for family, job, and other life responsibilities. Are they all in balance? Do your priorities take adequate care of all these aspects?

Tip: Remember that the stress of an imbalance of priorities falls on you. An over-imbalance can affect you negatively.

Tip: Burnout, when it occurs, is usually self-inflicted!

Tip: Balance and a sense of proportion should be your goal in setting personal priorities. Select activities carefully.  Honestly and carefully define and set your priorities.

Tip: Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing well! Burnout will prevent you from achieving your goals.

Tip: Do not over-extend yourself so that no goal is accomplished as you would wish! That way, you can put best effort into it and obtain the best result.

– – – – –

2. “Do I Still Need To Study?”

How many of us realize the importance of continuing to study the NFHS Soccer Rules regularly?  Perhaps you are a Referee who feels that once he or she has studied the rules sufficiently to pass the annual certification requirement, you know enough to get through the season.  That’s just not enough!

Consider this: if you are the Referee for a game, then in effect you are the only personable to make a decision on any given rules during that game.  In any incident it does not matter whether any or all of the coaches, players, and bench personnel agree or not agree with you.  Your decision stands!

Also, and perhaps more importantly, as a Referee you need to be able to observe an event, and then instantly decide whether or not to allow play to continue or to stop play and penalize for a violation.  You do not have the luxury of traking your time to think over an event, or to pull out your NFHS Soccer Rules Book to check on the proper action to take at the time.  You must know the answer immediately.

Without a thorough knowledge of the rules, you simply cannot meet that very real requirement for refereeing a game competently.

Tip:  Get into the habit of reading one page of the rule book every day, come what may! If you begin well before the season begins, and carry through right to the last day of the season, you will easily develop the ability to react instantly and automatically on the field because you will have a fund of rules knowledge deep seated in your mind.

Tip: Remember, you cannot expect to be the sole decision making authority on the field unless you know the rules thoroughly and are thereby fully prepared with that thorough knowledge base to interpret and apply them correctly.  That’s a part of the level of excellence to which you must aspire.

– – – – –

3.  “One Brief Technique for Preventive Refereeing”

In commenting on the value of learning how to count fouls during a game, a colleague once related what sounded like a thoughtful, if unofficial, technique to try.

My colleague would, as many of us learned to do at that time, keep a mental count of how many fouls were committed by as many players as he could identify. That mental count would alert him to a player who might be approaching misconduct.

If this Referee became aware during the first half of a game that a particular player had committed enough fouls to warrant a Caution if continued, the Referee would have a very brief word with that player in as unobtrusive a manner as possible by walking past just before the whistle for the second half and indicating to the player that he (the Referee) had counted “x” number of fouls committed by the player up to that time. The Referee would then continue to move on to start the second half and get on with the game.

In his experience with this technique, most players reacted by improving their record during the second half and committing many fewer incidents or no further incidents.

Tip: Sometimes a quiet word does work in helping prevent misconduct.

Tip: In this case, the simple expedient of keeping approximate track of how many fouls particular players committed and the comment to the concerned player many times helped in avoiding behavior problems later on in the game.

Tip: Be willing to try a new technique. Most of us who did try this technique found that it helped in game control, and more importantly, over time helped keep more than one player from having to be penalized for misconduct.