Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pro Camp Blog with Jair Marrufo

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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Q&A - Jair Marrufo

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. In part one we talked to Baldomero Toledo and in part two we spoke to Terry Vaughn. For part three, Ricardo Salazar checked in. Now, for part four, here's Jair Marrufo answering a few questions with the Official Take Blog:

Official Take: How is refereeing in the cold different from refereeing a game in warm weather?

Jair Marrufo: There are many differences between the two. If its raining or windy, it could affect the flight of the ball. On the other hand, in some parts of our country it gets very hot and we have to get ready for heat and humidity.

OT: How does an official prepare to referee a game in the cold? Do you train in cold weather?

JM: To prepare for a cold game it takes a little bit more preparation. I usually train early in the morning when it a little colder and I take a more time warming up than usual. Instead of a twenty minute warm up, I take about 40 minutes of warming up and stretching. It really comes down to your mindset: I know as soon as I blow the whistle to start the game the cold is removed from my mind.

OT: What are a few helpful tips or reminders for referees who are going to ref a game in the cold?

JM: I can't stress enough the importance of a good warm up and stretch before a game. This is vital to prevent injuries. Don't forget to wear your your layers; it really helps. If you're an assistant referee, it's OK to wear gloves. I recommend stretching again at half time to prevent injuries.

OT: At what point do you bring out the yellow ball?

JM: The yellow ball is necessary when there is snow or fog. It helps tremendously for everyone (referees and players alike) and is useful for TV purposes.

OT: What about a "rivalry" game? There are these big derby games all around the world. How does one prepare for a game between the biggest of rivals?

JM: The preparation should be the same with all games, but for big rivalries we should keep in mind that it is more emotional for players who want to get that win over their biggest rival. In case of Mexico vs USA, I know I will never get to referee that match but I have been involved in many rivalries between MLS teams. Like players, I think referees get pumped up as well for big games like Chivas USA vs. Galaxy, Fire vs DC United, or FC Dallas vs. Dynamo. We all know the teams are coming out to win no matter what it takes and, for referees, we know we need to step up and also show our capabilities. Some factors you always consider are sold out crowds, team standings in the league, the various players, and the atmosphere in the stadium.

OT: What 'rivalry' games have you done that were unique? What sticks out in your mind about these games between big rivals?

JM: I have been involved in some great rivalry games here in MLS. The ones that stick out more in my mind are Galaxy vs. Chivas USA and Houston vs. Dallas. In LA, both teams reside in one city and they also share a stadium. Those factors make [the game] more compelling for bragging rights. [Both Houston and FCD] reside in the same state, four hours away, and games like this always sell out the stadiums. The atmosphere is tremendous and you always get goose bumps walking out of the tunnel.

Ricardo Salazar Checks In

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. In part one we talked to Baldomero Toledo and in part two we spoke to Terry Vaughn. For part three, Ricardo Salazar checks in with the Official Take Blog:

It seems that the weather is the current talk for the US/Mexico showdown on Feb. 11 in Columbus. What is interesting is that it turns out the weather may not be that bad and, even so, our sport is meant to be played during colder months. If you look anywhere else in the world leagues are going strong. In England, they have been hit with snow and frigid weather. The spin is our opponents are not accustomed to playing in colder weather. From a referee’s view point, he will not be used to colder weather coming from Central America. I am going to spend some time on what he should do to get himself ready to deal with not only the match but the elements.

First, the obvious: his fitness level has to be high because this game is going to be fast paced. It is going to be much faster for a couple reasons and the colder weather is one factor. Unlike warm/hot weather months the players endurance levels will not be affected as it would be during hot weather. The referee and his crew will have to be mentally ready for the
cold weather. When they arrive into Columbus they will need to spend sometime outdoors in the weather. On game day, the will need to get outside and go for a walk, and they shouldn't stay inside all day.

The weather is something every FIFA referee has to deal with during out career. When we go to Central American/Mexico or the Caribbean we have to deal with hot and humid weather weather. How do we deal with this? I will put on extra clothes while training. A wind suit or sweatshirt is good for getting the core temp elevated. Also, I will go into a steam room at the gym after working out and do my stretching in there.

Hydration is another important factor in both hot and cold weather. In the colder months I think we forget how important it is to stay hydrated. Not only does the referee crew have to hydrate for the game, they have to deal with the effects of traveling. When flying all day, the body hydration level is affected. This must be looked after do the effects on the body are kept to a minimal.

The bottom line is yes it is different referee in cold weather then during the warmer months. The key is how you prepare for each game had to be different. The referee crew must prepare mentally as well as physically for every game to be successful. I like to have a second change of uniform so at halftime I can change into fresh dry gear. It is important to be co
mfortable after halftime. If you are wet from sweating during the first half the referee will not be comfortable to start the second half. This could effect his concentration level which isn’t a good thing.

Now lets get on with the game! We all know that USA/Mexico is the biggest rivalry in CONCACAF. It's funny because anytime anyone [else in CONCACAF] plays either of these two teams it is the biggest game for them, so this is the game everyone looks forward to see. For the referee it is a big honor to be appointed to this game. The referee for this day is not a rookie to this match up. He has seen and done this big game many times.; the players will know him and he will know the players. Not only is it a big game for the players and the respected countries but also for the referee and he has to perform at a high level and prove that he belongs at the World Cup. Currently there are five men on that list from CONCACAF and I can guarantee you that if we get three selected we will be lucky. So the spotlight will be on him also to perform at a high level. One mistake and he can loose his spot.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Q&A - Terry Vaughn

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. In part one we talked to Baldomero Toledo. In part 2 below, we speak with Terry Vaughn.

Official Take: How is refereeing in the cold different from refereeing a game in warm weather?


Terry Vaughn: Weather is a factor that we have to deal with every time we do a match outdoors. One of the keys to refereeing in any weather is to know that it is coming. Do your homework and know what the weather will be so you can bring the appropriate layers. If you are dealing with the cold, you need to have a cold gear tight shirt and shorts and then layer on top of that. Hand warmers are also a good thing to have.

You also need to make sure your warm up is efficient, as this helps get the body ready to work. You have to make sure you are ready so you do not pull a muscle with the cold. Lots of times you will do your run outside and then come back to the locker room to finish up your stretching.

When you are dealing with a bitterly cold environment, you have to be careful with your pen ink freezing and not working. When it is cold, I often use a pencil and I make sure that I have plenty of space to write, because by the end of the match I can not straighten my fingers to hold on to the pencil correctly, so it becomes writing with a closed fist. I make sure the rest of the crew records everything even more carefully knowing that the cold can cause by my to fingers to freeze up.

I do not use a pea in my whistle, but I know that when I used to I would have issues with it freezing to the side of the whistle because of the moisture. Referees that still use metal whistles find that they stick to the skin and tongue in the cold, so it is best to use a plastic whistle.

People from places where it is cold will tell you the trick to staying warm is not getting cold in the first place. Once you get cold it takes awhile to warm up, so try to keep that in mind when you are preparing to dress for this kind of cold.

Once you blow the whistle to start the game, it is like a switch and you have to forget about how cold you feel.

OT: How does an official prepare to referee a game in the cold? Do you train in cold weather?

TV: If it was warm where I lived and I had to go to a cold climate I would try to get a couple work outs in a air conditioned work out room (not the beach) and try to help help the body get a bit of an adjustment to the cold. You have to put the weather and the cold out of your mind so it does not become a distraction during the game. Your mind needs to be thinking about the issues of the match.


OT: Is it similar to, say, running or refereeing a game at high altitude?

TV: Yes, this is a good way of looking at. There a few things you can do to help, but the biggest is making sure you are fit to help your body deal with these extreme conditions.

OT: Can you think of an example from a game in the cold where a situation was either new to you or unexpected? How did you react?

TV: One of my first MLS centers was in Chicago in April [ed. note: when the Fire were still playing at Soldier Field], and a cold front came through. It dropped the temperature, the wind was blowing hard off the Lake and it poured rain the whole game (at one point it looked like it was raining horizontally). It was so cold and always threatening to snow, but I dug down and ran more to help me stay warm and focused. The lesson I learned was to make sure to have a change of uniforms for half time.

OT: What are a few helpful tips or reminders for referees who are going to ref a game in the cold?

TV: One important thing to keep in mind is when someone gets kicked or bumped when it is cold it feels different. In the cold weather, it is like everything is magnified and it hurts more. If the ground is frozen this effects a few things, for example when a player falls to the ground it will hurt more then usual. The bounce of the ball may be different, usually higher, and the traction for players' cleats will be different. All these things will effect how the game is played.

Keeping all these in mind will help you understand and be ready for things that may not be as obvious in the warm weather. If you see a player slipping or unable to get traction, good preparation can make you better equipped to adjust.

OT: At what point do you bring out the yellow ball?

TV: Once the players and my crew begin having issues with seeing the ball, we will bring out the yellow one. This is a last resort.

OT: What about a "rivalry" game? There are these big derby games all around the world. How does one prepare for a game between the biggest of rivals?

TV: Before and during these games you have to be prepared for everything. There is so much that takes place with gamesmanship, and in these types of games it happens even more because of the past interactions between them. Neither side wants to let down their fans. You have to work hard because it is going to take every bit of your fitness and your refereeing tools to make one of these games a successful match.

Do your homework so you are not surprised when something happens. If you have already prepared yourself for what may happen, you will be able to stay on top of their every move. You need to watch these teams on TV or tape so you know the team style and tendencies. This will help you become familiar with the goalscorers, the holding midfielders, the speedy player, the enforcers, and the playmakers. You'll also know if there are players missing due to injury or suspension.

Find out where the rivalry comes from, where it is today and who may be doing the trash talking in the media to stir the pot even more. Not only do you have to have all of that in your head, but you will also have to work hard in the game because it is going to take every bit of your fitness and your refereeing tools to make this a successful match.

OT: What 'rivalry' games have you done that were unique? What sticks out in your mind about these games between big rivals?

TV: Costa Rica playing away to Guatemala. As we drove to the stadium they had the roads blocked off for miles and there were fans everywhere more than two hours before kickoff. When we made it to the stadium and walked the field, the stands were full already. It turned out that all those people outside were just hanging around to be part of the game, but were not going to be in the stadium. Those fans outside the stadium also kept the Costa Rica bus from making to the stadium on time. Their locker room was locked and it took a while for them to find the key, both before and at half time. We made a decision before the match, that we were not coming out until the away team did.

During the game, any time a player from Costa Rica would go toward the sideline or toward the corner flag for a corner kick they were targeted with who knows what. The organizers had all the Costa Rican fans in one corner fenced off from the others, and whenever a Guatemalan player would take a corner kick on that side, about ten military officers would run over with their shields raised to protect the player from being hit by anything. The policed did not do this for when Costa Rica would take a corner.

In those games, you realize that all the chanting and songs definitely make for a home field advantage.