by: John Van de Vaarst
Volume 24 – May, 2011
This monthly column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.
All articles address those basic techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are often forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying tips stress important advice for competent performance.
This month the focus will be on being a student of the game and seeking ways to improve skills.
What is a student of the game? The best way to respond to this question is to look at referees who have been successful in their careers and what they did to reach their goals. First and foremost they studied the NCAA Rule Book and/or the NFHS Rule Book. Knowing the rules completely and thoroughly ensures that the referee will make the correct call during a critical situation. For example, during a corner kick during an highly contested game the kicker kicks the ball and it hits the goal post and rebounds back toward the kicker. What must go through the referee or assistant referee’s mind? Is the ball still in play? What happens if the kicker plays it a second time? What restarts are being considered? These potential decisions must be accurately made while there is action in front of the goal as the kick is initially taken. The officials involved must know several rule interpretations and make the accurate calls
The next aspect of being a student of the game is to read articles written by NCAA clinicians and other individuals about the NCAA and NFHS rules and officiating techniques. The NISOA Newsletter, monthly articles on the web and many articles in professional magazines can help a referee with increasing skills and techniques.
Observing top officials and highly competitive games can provide a referee new techniques in people management, critical calls, and dealing with coaches and bench personnel. Everyone has their own personality and must use it to their advantage on the field. However, often times using proven techniques will go a long way to game control.
The electronic age has brought about new methods of preparing for a game. A referee can check the box scores of previous games to review cautions, ejections, fouls, etc. This will provide additional information on what to expect during an assignment. However, do not overly focus on reports. If an official does, they may be unduly influenced and focus on one player or a small group of players while all others do not respect the rules.
Younger referees should seek out a mentor(s) that they can use as a sounding board to discuss game situations, advancement, people management and more. An experienced referee can provide a great amount of help to a younger referee. A new NISOA referee should contact their chapter regarding a formal mentoring program.
Each year chapters have local meetings to discuss rule interpretations and play situations. This is a good time for referees to ask questions and learn from others. NISOA sponsors regional clinics during the off season. This is great opportunity to participate in a session with topics presented by National Clinicians on a variety of timely topics. Clinic attendance is an opportunity to hear about latest rule interpretations and various issues related to becoming a better referee.
In summary to being a student of the game will provide the methods to improving referee skills, improve techniques and become the best possible official.