Saturday, June 27, 2009

1,000,000 Miles and Counting

I got off a plane in Miami coming back to the U.S. from Trinidad & Tobago. As I turned on my phone I had several voice mails and texts. This is common when returning to the country after being gone for a few days. When I was checking my messages, I was greeted by a person from the airline saying “Congratulations!" Usually when they call it is because my flights have been cancelled or delayed, but this was a different kind of message. They were letting me know that I had achieved their 1, 000,000 mile club. They were going to be sending me new luggage tags, a new member card and—my favorite—eight free upgrades.

Most people think referees just go and run around the soccer field and blow a whistle. They don’t see all the other stuff that goes into it. The fitness work, the eating right and getting enough sleep. One of the biggest obstacles that wear on us is all the travel. This is my ninth year in MLS and fifth year on the international panel. We spend lots of time on airplanes and in airports. It is important to be fit and stay hydrated. One of the first things I do when I get into a city when working a game is pick up water and some kind of a sports drink (usually Gatorade). I limit the Gatorade and/or mix it with water due to the calories. I try to only drink sports drinks when working out or prepping for a game. During a highly competitive match a referee can burn upwards of 1,500 to 2,000 calories and cover six to nine miles. Hydration is important!

But now back to the travel. When I was at U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy Spring Showcase, I had a fellow referee ask how I travel. I told him my most common airlines, but what he was really asking is what is acceptable to wear when traveling. I thought that was a good question, so I gave him a good answer. When I travel for MLS games I am usually in an Official Sports polo shirt. It is important that when traveling for U.S. Soccer that we are dressed clean and smart. This doesn’t mean you have to be in a suit and tie; a nice pair of pants and OSI polo shirt or OSI warm up is very acceptable. Sometimes, I will wear jeans and leather shoes with an OSI shirt of some kind. This should be the practice of all referees that represent U.S. Soccer.

I hope you are enjoying your games. As the summer months are upon us, make sure you are not only drinking plenty of fluids but also eating right.

Ricardo Salazar
U.S. Soccer Referee

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