With 2009 Major league Soccer season around the corner, I attended our first pro camp in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. With the support that U.S soccer has been given for the past years it made this weekend very instrumental for the 2009 season to start off on the right track. I arrived on Thursday the 5th, flying in during the afternoon. Opening ceremonies were that night, along with orientation for the weekend, and I was very excited to catch up with my colleagues who I hadn't seen in a while. About 72 referees and assistant referees were in attendance. This was the first time a group this small attended a pro camp and it was very important that the top officials in the country were all in one place to prepare for the upcoming MLS season.Friday morning came fast, and my 5 am wake up call came even faster. At six, we all departed to Walt Disney World sports complex to take our FIFA Fitness test. With the temperature at 30 degrees that morning, I knew I would have take a little bit more time warming up. After our fitness test was over, we all went back to the hotel and started our new directives for 2009 set by the U.S Soccer Referee Department.
As Saturday rolled around we started early at 8 am to continue with the new directives that are very vital for our preparation for this year. The great thing about this weekend for me was how we got down to the nitty-gritty of refereeing. With Paul Tamberino and his staff making us feel very comfortable, we were able to speak very freely, sharing our opinions and comments. We were also helped by our referee friends from Canada, who were very vocal in sharing their thoughts and ideas with us. After lunch, we handed out awards to referees and assistant referees that officiated in their 100th game in MLS this past season. At the same time, I received my award for MLS Referee of the Year, an honor that I am extremely proud of. It's great that U.S Soccer has given myself and three others the opportunity to referee full time and that has really helped me focus on my referee career. We continued throughout the day with our new directives and we also watched a series of very important videos of plays from last year.
Sunday came and we started at 8 am again. Starting where we left off from Saturday, we finished with the last directives. We all knew it was going to be a short day because we were going to be dismissed at noon for our departures. When all the directives were done, we had a Q&A session with MLS and U.S Soccer where we voiced any concerns and raised any questions that we had for this past year and upcoming year.
For me, this camp was a tremendous success. I felt a camaraderie with everybody this weekend and I enjoyed catching up with those who I had not seen in a long time. The tremendous strides that Paul Tamberino and his referee department have made in these couple of years really showed this weekend, and we know that we will all be ready for the 2009 MLS Season.