Referee Nuts and Bolts – July 2011

by:  John Van de Vaarst

Volume 26 – July 2011

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.

This month’s articles focus on what to do after a bad game and learning from your mistakes.

Everyone has a bad game during their career or season.  After the game, on the ride home, and sometimes even the next day or two the referee continues to ponder on what went wrong.  What could have been done differently to prevent the outcome?  Should that foul have been a caution or ejection, would that have helped?  Many referees ponder these thoughts for extended periods of time with no resolution.   In lieu of this the referee can take several steps to deal with the problem and come to resolution.  For  example, the referee can call a senior referee and review the situation(s) and discuss how to handle them differently or did they make the right decisions.  Talking out the problem in itself helps.   Secondly, the referee can talk to the assistant referees that were assigned to the game and seek honest feedback on game control and how the game could have been officiated differently.  After all the assistant referees were there and observing the game.  The angles may have been different and their focus  on plays different but they could provide information that would help in the future.  If there was an alternate official, this person could be a great resource of information.  They are watching the game and in a good position to observe play situations.  The key is for the referee to have the ability to make the rest of the team feel that the information they are providing is welcome and being used for improvement.   Becoming defensive and providing contradictory arguments when receiving the feedback will only result in the assistant referees and/or alternate official becoming frustrated and stop providing feedback.

Another option is to discuss the game with the assignor.   Although they were not at the game they have access to the coach and others to obtain feedback on how they perceived the referee’s performance.   While this could be somewhat bias, it could also be helpful in determining the facts and why the outcome of the game was not the best for the officiating team, the players, coaches and spectators.

Lastly, was there a fellow official at the game as a spectator?   While this person was not there to assess or observe the referee’s performance, they may be able to provide some insight into the game and what they felt caused problems.   All information is helpful.

In summary, the referee should not dwell on the past.  Seek information on what went wrong from any possible source.   Once the data is received, analyze it and move on to the next assignment.   This should bring about a much better result.

Everyone make mistakes.  If they did not they are not human.   So when a referee makes a mistake, how do they learn from it and what can they do to prevent the mistake in the future.   Some of the answers are found above in the previous article.  Seeking feedback is a good way to learn.

Many of the top officials who made mistakes had a mentor who they can talk to and learn from.  Mentors are a great source of information and can be most helpful in improving techniques.  Discussing a bad call or a potential misinterpretation goes a long way in preventing the problem in the future.

A common sense way to learn from a mistake is to reread the rule that covers the situation.  A referee never has enough rule knowledge.  Top officials are constantly reviewing the rule book and making sure they are aware of every possible situation and how the rule applies.  Knowing the rules and how to apply them can prevent future mistakes during a game.

Many experienced referees serve as clinicians and impart their knowledge on others.  Explaining a play that occurred and how it was mishandled by the clinician when they were on the field is a great way for others to learn from a mistake.

Video of games and the NISOA Critical Incident DVD are great ways to learn from mistakes.   It is easy to review a play in slow motion and closely observed what happened.   What may have looked like a penalty kick from one angle, when reviewed a slow speed indicates that no foul was committed.   This type of learning is invaluable.

One of the critical issues is that the referee must recognize they made a mistake and learn from it.   As noted in the previous article becoming defensive and justify what went wrong does not solve the problem.  Remember to error is human.   Learning from the error makes the referee better.