By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician
During the interscholastic season, many teams schedule games in the afternoon, sometimes as early as 3:30 PM. This is important later in the fall season when available daylight can become an issue. Depending on the state association, playoff games may start as early as 2:00 PM. Many interscholastic soccer officials go to these games directly from work. It is imperative that officials arrive at the site with sufficient time to perform pregame duties and properly prepare for the game.
The NFHS Rules Book indicates in Rule 5 Article 2 that “the jurisdiction of the officials shall begin on their arrival at the field of play and its immediate surroundings (to begin their official responsibilities), which shall be no later than 15 minutes prior to the start of the game and end with their leaving the field of play and its immediate surroundings.” Section 2 of Rule 5, Pregame Responsibilities, indicates that “officials shall be in uniform at the site of the game no less than 15 minutes before the scheduled starting time.” These two quotations from Rule 5 clearly indicate that the officials assigned any interscholastic game must be at the field and ready to proceed no less than 15 minutes before the game. This means that the officials must be in their full uniform including shirt, have all their equipment ready and are prepared to conduct pregame responsibilities.
Some interscholastic officials accept assignments that are a distance from their place of employment or from where they depart for the game. These officials must leave for the game early enough to still arrive within the required timeframes even if there is traffic problems or other unexpected issues. Prior to accepting assignments, officials should consider where the game site is and how long it will take to travel to the site. It is better not to accept a game than arrive at the last minute or late. This is not professional.
There are many reasons why the officials should arrive at least 15 minutes before the game. There are many pregame responsibilities that must be performed as required in Rule 5. For example, the game balls must be inspected and approved. While this normally does not take much time, the officials must be prepared to deal with a situation where the game balls are not proper and need to be replaced, inflated, etc. Officials are to review the duties of the time and scorekeeper to ensure both are properly prepared for the game. This includes watching the officiating team for signals to stop the clock, counting down the last 10 seconds of each half, properly recording goals, cautions and ejections. The head coaches must be queried to determine that all players are properly equipped. Also, the field must be inspected and any problems corrected before the game starts. This may include holes in the net, etc. At least 5 minutes before the game the officials should conduct the coin toss so that both teams are on the field and ready to play at the stipulated time for the game to start.
Officials should take time to warm up so that their muscles are properly stretched prior to the game. Walking on to a field and starting a game immediately could lead to pulled muscles, sprains or other injuries that impact the remainder of the season.
The above requirements can take a sufficient amount of time to complete. 15 minutes is the bare minimum. Interscholastic officials should make every effort to arrive at a game ready to begin pregame duties as soon as possible. The more time allotted allows the officiating team to perform the duties without any undue stress that results from inadequate time to perform the functions.
Early arrival also reduces problems for school administrators and coaches who become concerned as to whether the officiating team will be at the game site. If no officials are at the site and the game is scheduled to start in 15 minutes, administrators may be contacting assignors to determine if there is a problem and coaches’ pregame duties are being adversely impacted because they must worry about whether the officials will arrive.
Arriving on time is a duty of every official. It also reflects on the professionalism of the official involved. Every official assigned an interscholastic game should do his/her best to be on time and ready to officiate the game.