At the November meeting of the SRANJ, National Referee Coach Barry Towbin provided a presentation on referee crew teamwork. He led a discussion of the referees in the room around several topics critical to successful referee teamwork. Barry challenged referees in the room with questions and used their answers as well as their comments and questions to augment his presentation.
I have a tendency to overreact when given advice or feedback about my weaker areas. When I got the typical feedback early in my career that my whistle needed to be stronger, I worked on it to the point that feedback now is the opposite. Last year I was advised that my whistle could be quieter in some situations – players three fields away were stopping play!
I have heard the comments we all do at association meetings and recertifications about avoiding the “referee retention circle” (center circle). In the past I have also received direct guidance, advice, and/or feedback about my positioning. As a result, over the years, I have worked to get wider and go deeper on my diagonals. I have also tried to follow the general advice to always be able to see play and one assistant referee. In attempting to meet these objectives, I had adopted some bad habits (from good intentions) that result in suboptimal positions for the current play, reactive rather than proactive movement for the next phase of play (consequently having to work too hard), and extreme positions (wide or deep) that exacerbated the first two problems.
Last year, Mark Geiger (at the time NJSDI) gave a USSF presentation at a SRANJ meeting about some new concepts on referee position that are evolving. These concepts address the issues I mention above. I am attempting to absorb the material and work it into my toolbox. This weekend, I will be using a tournament and feedback from colleagues to fine-tune the approach. Like any attempt to break habits, I expect it to be rough around the edges at best, if not downright clumsy and awkward. I will report back on my experience. In the meantime, here is the positioning presentation:
State Referee Emeritus (and NJSDI) Derek Von Langen delivered a USSF presentation on managing injuries at the May meeting of the SRANJ. He discussed the Laws of the Game that reference injury management, and then presented the USSF position on injury management in youth and amateur soccer. He stated that the Laws of the Game state that a referee shall stop play only for serious or severe injury. What constitutes serious or severe is up to the referee’s judgment on that day in that match. It will depend on the age and expectations of the players.
With youth players, and even with most amateur players, safety is the overriding concern. For U-10 any time a player is on the ground from a possible injury, we shall treat it as serious and STOP THE MATCH. As the players get older, we might wait a moment to see if they get up, but if there is any doubt, we STOP THE MATCH. For any obvious severe or serious injury, we MUST STOP THE MATCH.
Over the first few weeks of the season I have had the opportunity to observe or work with several dozen referees. Each had strengths as well as areas for additional development, as we all do. One of the more common areas for improvement is verbal communications. This is also one of the easiest areas to improve – but it takes a little effort!
As referees, we can be our own worst enemies by the words we choose to communicate. For example, after a coach complains that his player was pushed, having been illegally charged from behind, we should not say “It wasn’t a foul because the player did not use her hands.” If you did not see the charge to the back, simply say that, but advise the coach you will watch for it (and watch for it!).
Above is an obvious example of digging yourself a hole. There are other situations, however, that can best be avoided by using the “Language of the Laws”. Examples: