By Randy Vogt for Soccer America
Here are some more of the things I have learned in 35 years of refereeing (Read Part 1):
* In youth soccer, there are telltale signs before the match as to what type of game it will be. If the opposing coaches talk to one another before the game, some players on opposing teams are friends and the teams are lined up in order with shirts tucked in and are quiet when the ref is checking passes, chances are it will be a very pleasant game.
* Games at the U-10, U-16 and senior levels are all officiated differently. What looks like a red card in a pro game might not with younger players. You have to look at the intent. For example, studs way up on a sliding tackle, 99 percent of 11-year-olds would not know that’s a bad foul. A man or woman would. That would be a send-off in those games. At U-12, you simply blow the whistle very hard and explain, “Don’t do it again,” as someone could get hurt.
* What can be quite challenging about officiating youth soccer is the dissent from adults unfamiliar with the game can come from unusual situations. Some people yell if they believe the ref made a mistake -- whether it’s the direction of a throw-in at midfield or a penalty kick decision. Yet referees understand that a PK has a much greater impact on the game than the direction of the throw and question why people are getting so excited about a throw-in.
* It’s understandable that many people have difficulty grasping the subtleties of the offside rule. Yet many involved with soccer do not know that all defensive restarts inside the penalty area (not just goal kicks) must clear the penalty area to be in play, the kickoff still must be played forward, the coin-toss winning team only selects which side to attack (the other team gets the first-half kickoff) and all players on the field including keepers should have their shirts tucked into their shorts.
* The moment that I think that I know it all is the moment that game becomes very challenging.
* Many refs quit within their first two years of officiating with verbal abuse by kids’ parents being the number one reason for quitting. So before you yell at a ref or AR, just think how you might be exacerbating a referee shortage by doing so. And if you are so certain that the officials got the call wrong, why don’t you become a referee?
* Leagues with sportsmanship programs that place a high value on these programs have fewer discipline problems than those leagues without a program.
* Did you have a good time at the last tournament you attended? Chances are the tournament format had a lot to do with it. I’ve refereed hundreds of tournaments and have found that people tend to be happiest with tourneys that use a straight round-robin with a championship game if need be. The worst format is modeled after the World Cup: a couple of games of group play followed by several elimination rounds. It’s in the elimination rounds that things can get hairy with people scurrying to the tournament tent to complain about an officiating decision or that “our team did not give up a goal all tournament and was just eliminated in a shootout.”
* When I briefly lived in Florida over two decades ago, I officiated in both Orlando and Tallahassee, the state capital 250 miles away. All games U-13 on up had more than one official in Florida. I thought that when I return to New York, it will be quite challenging again as I’ll return to refereeing all games by myself plus have many more ethnic rivalries in New York than in Florida. Slowly, the situation in New York during the past two decades became better so that all youth games U-13 on up have three officials. Sadly, at least one New York senior league still has difficulty having all its teams pay for three officials per game. An example of how this plays out: I was an AR for a youth game while a men’s game on the adjacent field had no ARs. That game had as many cards as our game had fouls.
• Twenty-five years ago this summer -- as a young man refereeing the Pele Cup in Brazil -- I had the great pleasure of meeting Lynn Berling-Manuel, Paul Gardner, Dan Woog and Michael Lewis for the first time. What’s most memorable about that journey, a quarter-century later, was the surreal trip as our plane was diverted to some pretty exotic places. But that’s another story for another day …
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to six-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. Find out how to order your copy by clicking here.)