Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A pregame for soccer parents and friends

I wrote this a few weeks ago after a soccer tournament and am republishing it here now.  As most of you know, I referee soccer on weekends and enjoy it immensely.  At times it can be a bit challenging dealing with all the different personalities on the pitch, this might give a bit of insight before you attend your next (or first!) match.

Before every soccer match, the refereeing crew gets together to go over expectations, style, etc., for how the game will be worked. I would like to do a pregame with the parents watching my next match. I think it would go something like this.

First, thank you all for your enthusiasm and for being involved in your children's athletic endeavors. Having said that, there are a few things you should know about today's game.

1. Soccer is a contact sport. To borrow from a friend of mine, if you don't want contact, go get yourself a set of golf clubs. Your child may get pushed, pulled or knocked over. This doesn't necessarily mean they have been fouled. It also doesn't give little Johnny or Susie free reign to whack whoever they choose.

2. Just because the ball hits a player in the hand, that does not necessarily constitute a foul. Concepts like undue advantage and natural position come into play.

3. Nowhere in the rule book is there a foul entitled "high kick." Nowhere. There is a dangerous play caused by lifting your foot into a dangerous position relative to an opponents head. That requires an opponent to be involved in the play.

4. There might be five players in an offsides position. That doesn't mean they are offsides. The number of variables involved is vast and almost unimaginable.

5. We will be playing the advantage today. That means some fouls that are fouls won't be called.

6. In an average football game there are 80-100 plays. After each play, the whistle blows, everyone stops, catches their breath and gets ready for the next play. In soccer, play doesn't stop. There is an actionable play about every three to five seconds. Over a 90 minute games, that's conservatively 1080 plus actionable plays. Soccer crews have three or four refs, football has eight. An average center referee runs between 5-8 miles per game, assistant referees 2-4 miles. If this is a tournament weekend, I'm probably doing anywhere from 6-10 games.

7. I will miss a call today. Maybe more than one. If I make 99% of the calls correctly, that means i will miss 11. Most good referees agonize over missing one. I do. I will replay my blown calls over and over until I recognize them from every angle so I don't miss it again. If you don't think that's true, ask me about the missed handball in the Lakewood Fallfest under 14 boys final from 2010. I still remember it.

8. Yell if you must, get emotional and passionate, but be respectful of everyone, the coaches, your opponents, the referees, but most importantly, support the kids. It's the reason we are here, right?

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