Friday, June 5, 2009

Working With Professionals

In another segment written by a referee, get a look inside the game day experience of a referee in the WPS:

This past Memorial Day Weekend, I got to referee my first WPS and first ever top level professional division match. The whole experience was awesome and amazing! I had a great crew of referees to work with and a great assessor who were able to help me along the way. These are not the only people however that made this day possible. There are so many people that have helped me over the years and I am so grateful, lucky, and fortunate to and for those that have made an opportunity like this possible. Thank you!

Game day began with our pregame meeting at the hotel. The goal here was to leave no stone unturned and cover every possible thing that could happen. When we finished lunch and our discussion it was off to the stadium. We had two and half hours before kickoff which seems like a lot of time but there was still much to do. As a crew we walked the field, checked the uniform colors, and secured all the rosters and paperwork. We spoke to the game day operations staff and television crew, pumped up two bags full of soccer balls, and we hadn't even put on our uniforms yet. One of many firsts for me and most of my crew on this day was the use of the RefTalk communication devices. The technology that we use now to referee soccer games is great but I found out firsthand just how much time you need to get it all ready. Between the beeper flags, the heart rate monitors, and the communication devices, it was a bit comical watching all of us try and figure out where all the wires go and how to strap all this technology to us.

After a good half an hour to forty five minutes of getting dressed, we were finally ready to go and warm up. Walking out onto the field to loud music and seeing the beginnings of what was going to be a sold out crowd was an exciting moment. The adrenaline was starting kick in. We had broken a good sweat as we walked back to the locker room to put on our jerseys and at that point the butterflies that had been flying around in my stomach all day and all week really began to flutter. After one final check of everything in the locker room, my crew and I made our way to the tunnel where we met the teams. With a smile on my face, I wished the players good luck and we began to walk out on the field. The entire pregame ceremony and introductions seemed to take forever as I had been waiting for this kick off since I began refereeing many years ago. The national anthem was sung and the coin toss performed; the moment had arrived!

The first whistle blows and it's off to the races. The first foul occurs in the very first minute and there is no turning back. The first half sees a penalty kick for the visiting L.A. Sol putting them up 1-0 over the home team FC Gold Pride. A yellow card to each team is also issued before the first forty-five minutes are complete. Half time arrives and finally I get a chance to catch my breath. The crew feels pretty good about what happened in the first half but we know there is still more soccer to be played. What has happened so far is over and done with and we need to focus on to the second half.

Tactical changes in the second half by the home team are made in an attempt to rally from behind. The game's pace and speed pick up and the challenges are coming in harder and more often. Just when the Gold Pride seems to have the Sol on their heels, L.A. scores a second goal and the result now is almost inevitable. "Don't get comfortable!" and "Finish strong!" are the thoughts racing through my head. Unfortunately, the game comes to somewhat of an anti-climactic conclusion with an odd but apparently serious injury to one of the Gold Pride's best defenders in the 90th minute after she takes an awkward step over the touchline. After three minutes of stoppage time, I blow the final whistle and bring the affair to a close. We walk back to the locker rooms with our heads held high and for the first time in what has seemed like an eternity, the weight is lifted off my shoulders.

The feedback from the assessor is positive. There is definitely room for improvement, adjustments to be made, and things to work on, but overall, a job well done! Fellow referee colleagues who have come to the game to watch come to the locker room with congratulations for me and the crew. I turn on my cell phone to find numerous phone calls, voicemails, and text messages of well wishes and more congratulations. We finish the paperwork, shower, and head to the parking lot where I meet my excited best friends and family who were also in attendance. What a great feeling!

Lessons Learned Through Experience

More thoughts and comments from the referees of the 2009 Development Academy Spring Showcase

Hello from the airport in Sarasota. As the tournament is playing its last games I am at the airport awaiting my flight home. U.S. Soccer calls this the spring showcase but at times it felt like the middle of summer here in Florida. We had a large group of referees working this showcase. It was good to watch the referees work and show their stuff. It was a joy sitting with them after their games and discussing situations that took place in their games. They wanted to know if they handled the situations correctly or what they could have done differently next time. I give them credit for wanting to learn and get better.

I can remember coming through the ranks and some of the most memorable moments were the times spent hanging out. It is good to be in the lobby of the hotel or out watching a game and having referees wanting to spend time talking about refereeing. Don’t get me wrong, the games are great and that is why we are there but so much more can be learned from talking about the game.

I can remember at the winter showcase in Lancaster, not many of the referees took advantage of having experienced referees around. That was not the case during this spring showcase. All of us full timers tried to spend as much time as possible in the lobby of the hotel so we could be available to all the refs.

I would like to make a suggestion to those coming to the summer showcase in North Carolina: it is important to eat properly and hydrate often. If I was going there to referee (and this might likely happen) I would start hydrating a week in advance. What does that mean? I would double my fluid intake of water and Gatorade. I would shoot for 2 gallons of fluids a day and would be sure to keep hydrating on the plane.