By Don Dennison, NISOA National Assessor

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” 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 month’s article will focus on assessments and assessor tips.

I have had the pleasure this year of assessing several National Referees on Division 1 matches in several cities and I was generally pleased with their performances on the field. As a result of my assignments I have formed a few opinions applicable to referees at the National level and I have also honed my own assessment techniques.

For the most part, when a NISOA referee reaches the National level, he/she has developed the skills and knowledge to officiate difficult matches well. It is quite difficult for an assessor to find much fault in the basic officiating skills of these Nationals such as match control, use of correct signals, positioning and communication with ARs and AOs. The better officials at this level generally need little adverse comments or corrections on these areas of performance.

Accordingly, I have found that most of my feedback to these referees centered on failure to correct administrative rule violations. Among other minor omissions that I have seen have been the following:

  • Goalkeepers wearing the same color socks as the opposing team
  • No number on the front of the goalkeeper’s jersey
  • Pep bands playing while the ball is in active pay
  • Multiple players on the same team wearing visible under garments of different colors
  • Timekeepers failing to count down the last 10 seconds of the half or the match
  • Commercial logos on corner flags.

These administrative rules have been enacted for specific reasons and it is important for our National referees to know and enforce these rules. As an assessor we must not only critique on the major issues noted earlier but on any omissions of the technical or administrative rules.

I have also taken note that even many of our more seasoned National officials have developed habits over the years that could stand some discussion. I have noted that on many occasions they will forget to signal the clock to be stopped after a goal and more frequently when a card or a penalty kick is to be awarded. Also noted was the referee not relying on his/her AO or AR1 to initially control the bench. With headsets it is easy to ask the assistants to attend to bench activity and only ask for referee assistance if absolutely necessary.

I have developed a few techniques in assessing over the years that have helped me immensely. Most D1 schools and others have headsets available for the officials. In the event that there is an extra set (a set for the AO when one is not part of the team), the use by the assessor for listening only and not to be used to communicate has been found to be very helpful in assessing, especially in determining the referee’s communication, misconduct and foul recognition.

I would highly recommend that assessors move around the field rather than to stay in the grandstand or near the timer’s bench. Certainly stay away from the team benches and if possible walk around behind the benches and not in front of them. I normally stay on one side of the field during the first half of the match and move to the other side for the second half.

It is always a good idea to meet the officials either in the officials’ dressing room or in a place where they are gathering prior to the match and to introduce yourself to them. After they break to take the field, leave them alone until the half-time break when you can visit with them in the dressing room, but do not use that time to discuss your findings or to make suggestions. Save that for after the match.

The post-game conference should be conducted in a private location away from teams and spectators and should be kept as short as possible, preferably 15 minutes or less. Let the officials have some time to unwind and refresh themselves first. I have found that by starting off on a positive note, pointing out the three good things that you saw regarding the referee’s performance is the best way to start the dialog. The post-game meeting should not be a lecture but rather an actual discussion or dialog. Thereafter, you can bring up no more than three areas of concern. I would never suggest that “I would have…”, rather ask the referee if he thought that a particular foul play deserved a card. A more detailed review of the official’s match will be in your written assessment report.

It’s always a challenge to adequately assess NISOA National referees since they are the very best of our college officials, but despite their years of experience and assumed knowledge of the NCAA Rules, there are still areas that may require fine tuning so that they can be even better.

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